WELLINGTON, January 11, 2022-–Women’s polo takes center stage Wednesday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
By Sharon Robb
The Polo School Grand Champions Women’s League begins its sixth year to kick off a busy winter season at Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita. Game time is 10 a.m.
Ten players will compete including Hope Arellano, Cecelia Cochran, Pamela Flanagan, Alyson Poor and Malicia von Falkenhausen.
The women’s league attracts all levels of playing ability and will be held every Wednesday through April.
The only full-time weekly women’s polo league in the world was created by Alina Carta, a polo pioneer and one of the highest ranked women in the U.S. in the 1980s, and Melissa Ganzi, Grand Champions Polo Club President, World Polo League co-founder and avid player. Ganzi is the first woman in history to win the prestigious 35th Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz and returns to Switzerland to compete Jan. 28-30.
“I’m always excited when we start,” Carta said. “It has grown. The girls really look forward to it. We have every player from beginners to great players, a nice mix of players. It’s going to be fantastic.”
All team entry fees benefit The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned club. The Polo School offers lessons to men, women and children of all ages and ability levels and offers scholarships.
The league, along with the March 30-April 3 WCT Finals at Grand Champions, honors Sunny Hale, the all-time greatest women’s polo player and Hall of Famer. The part-time Wellington resident died February 26, 2017 in Norman, Okla. due to complications from cancer at age 48.
Hale is one of the sport’s pioneers and first woman in polo history to win the 26-goal U.S. Open in an era when the sport was male-dominated.
Many of the players have competed in qualifiers for the Women’s Championship Tournament (WCT), the largest women’s league in the world which Hale founded to help open the door and break down barriers for girls and women.
Female polo players account for 40 percent of players in polo today and continue to be the fastest growing demographic in the sport. Hale has been credited for the growth. She laid the foundation, did the work, gave women opportunities in the sport and is the reason the sport has become so popular among women. Her legacy remains alive through today’s generation of women players like Arellano, the top American player.
Grand Champions, the nation’s largest polo club coming off its most successful fall season, hopes to build off that success when it hosts 23 tournaments from January through April.
The 26-goal World Polo League, co-founded by Marc and Melissa Ganzi, returns for a fourth season. The All-Star Challenge opens the high goal season Feb. 4-20 followed by the Tommy Hitchcock Legacy Memorial, Feb. 16-27; Founders Cup, Feb. 23-March 13; Palm Beach Open, March 9-27; Triple Crown of Polo, March 23-April 16 and Beach Polo World Cup Miami Beach, April 22-24.
The high goal club tournaments will feature the Sterling Cup, Jan. 18-30; $100,000 World Cup, Jan. 28-Feb. 12 and Santa Rita Abierto, March 1-13.
The 16-goal league play includes the Grand Champions Cup, Feb. 14-March 5; Power Horse Invitational, March 8-26; and Pedro Morrison Memorial, March 29-April 16.
The 12-goal league schedule is the Limited Edition 12-Goal Series, Jan. 25-Feb. 12; Sieber Memorial Trophy, Feb. 15-March 5; $50,000 National 12-Goal, Feb. 16-27; and Top Pony 12-Goal, March 8-26.
The 8-goal tournament lineup is the Aspen Valley Cup, Jan. 14-30; Top Pony 8-Goal, Feb. 15-March 5; and Limited Edition 8-Goal, March 8-26.
The 6-goal schedule features the Metropolitan Cup, Jan. 25-Feb. 12; Halo Polo Trophy, Feb. 15-March 5; and Madelon Bourdieu Memorial, March 8-26.
Grand Champions has also added Sunset Chukkers and Cocktails, presented by Seminole Casino Coconut Creek and held Tuesday late afternoon on Field One for players and guests.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 100-acre polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in several self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and stick-and-ball fields.
During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation’s largest club with 13 well-manicured, world-class fields at GCPC and Santa Rita Polo Farm, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal including the 26-goal World Polo League in addition to special events.
The club attracts a large international field of players from all corners of the world including Australia, Chile, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Germany, Uruguay, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, South Africa, Nigeria and England.
The Polo School operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Director of Operations Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099.
Grand Champions Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its’ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.