Fall 2018 was rough for Texas and the USPA Southwestern circuit. Multiple tournaments were cancelled, postponed or taken from the grass into the arena due to the volume of seemingly never-ending rain. Even South Padre Island with its sandy soil base, had some rain outs. Finally, the 2018 USPA Southwest Circuit Amateur Cup was played in January 2019.

What makes South Padre Island (SPI) Polo Club so unique is its proximity to salt water. The Laguna Madre is yards away from the sideline while the Gulf of Mexico is a few hundred yards away from the other side of the field.  During the match, there was a farmer’s market, VIP tent and lots of spectators. Throughout the weekend, participants and their families took advantage of the beach, kite-boarding, salt water fishing and the local restaurants and music venues.

Robin Sanchez on Best Playing Pony Pata Blanca.
Robin Sanchez on Best Playing Pony Pata Blanca.

San Antonio Polo Club (SAPC), in blue jerseys, mounted an all-female team for the tournament (Ursula Pari, Keala Panzarini and sisters Georgia and Stella Stone). Playing for the SPI Polo Club team in white was (Devan Groves, Abigayle McVaney, Tom Arbuckle, Stephanie Franke and Robin Sanchez). SPI started out with a half goal on handicap. Panzarini and Stella Stone quickly put two points on the board for San Antonio with SPI’s Groves sending one in for the home team. San Antonio took the lead after the first chukker. This fired up SPI with Groves scoring an additional goal and Sanchez belting one through the goals while her teammates, Franke and McVaney kept the defense at bay. Winter Texan and South Padre regular, Arbuckle got the stick on it a few times in the third chukker with passes from McVaney but the Stone sisters wouldn’t allow any goals. Pari regrouped her team for an attack in the final chukker with a goal from Panzarini but SPI maintained their half-goal lead winning the tournament.

Best Playing Pony Pata Blanca pictured with Robin Sanchez.
Best Playing Pony Pata Blanca pictured with Robin Sanchez.

“After a long fall and winter of rain and cold, it was a nice respite to enjoy a day at the beach with my San Antonio teammates,” shared SAPC team captain Ursula Pari after the game. “Many thanks to Pud Nieto and SPI Polo Club for the great hospitality, and for the opportunity to bond with our up and coming women polo stars!”

Georgia Stone was named Most Valuable Player and Pata Blanca played and owned by Robin Sanchez was presented with the coveted Best Playing Pony Award.

“This is the only prize I ever wish for,” said Sanchez. “Pata Blanca really put me right on the ball today.  I couldn’t be prouder of her. This is a nice young thoroughbred mare that has a bright future ahead of her. Having the opportunity to come down to Pud’s and work the horses in this one-of-a-kind backdrop has been fantastic.”

Special thanks to Jack Crea for officiating, USPA Governor at Large Steve Armour for announcing, Reese Layton for timing and scorekeeping, Katy and Walker Nieto for flagging and to David and Debbi Murrell for photos.

All photos ©David Murrell.

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