EASTERN EXPOSURE: Inaugural Women’s East Coast Open draws nine teams

Women’s International Polo Network defeated Avalon, 9-5, to lift the perpetual Sunny Hale Memorial Trophy after winning the Women’s East Coast Open on July 1.

HANDICAP    
Tolerance Cider/
Heïades International
Minnie Keating
Hannah Stowe
Lizzy Girard Parker
Izzy Parsons
Catie Reed


3
A
3T
6T
A
 
Boston Avalon
Athena Malin 4
Elizabeth Owens A
Natalie Dostoomian A
Tiamo Hudspeth 5
Natalie Barton A

4
A
A
5
A

 
Melinda’s Prospect Farm
Anna Winslow
Jennifer Williams
Cindy Halle
Gracie Grotnik

4
3
4
A
 
Island Cowgirl
Courtney Asdourian
Jenna Davis
Lauren Bilsky
Heather Souto

6
2
A
4
 

Harvard
Jane Amero
Aemilia Phillips
Marion Dierickx
Alyson Poor


2T
A
2
4
 

The event was co-hosted by Newport Polo, home of the Westchester Polo Club, in Newport County, Rhode Island and Myopia Polo Club in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Played from June 27-July 1, the tournament drew nine teams, with talented players coming from coast to coast and overseas, gathering 150 horses for some highly-competitive action over five days.

The event had five teams playing off in a 8- to 12-goal handicap bracket, while four teams vied for the 14- to 20-goal open bracket. Ten women played in both brackets.

Preliminary matches for the handicap section began on Wednesday, June 27. In a round-robin match, Island Cowgirl got two goals on Melinda’s Prospect Farm after giving it a half-goal handicap in the first round. In the next two round, Tolerance Cider/Heïades International outscored both Island Cowgirl and Melinda’s Prospect Farm, 3-1, to earn a spot in the final. The second game had Boston Avalon slip Harvard Polo, 5-4, for the other final spot.

Games were rained out the next day, so play resumed on Friday. In the first open bracket game, Women’s International Polo Network narrowly edged Heïades International 6-5. Later, Avalon Farm overcame Island Cowgirl, 7-6. The handicap consolation game was played Saturday morning with Melinda’s Prospect Farm overcoming both Island Cowgirl and Harvard for third place honors. Island Cowgirl came in fourth place.

Later that day, it seemed Boston Avalon was unable to buy a goal in the handicap final as Tolerance Cider/ Heïades International cruised to a 7-1 victory. Boston Avalon’s Tiamo Hudspeth said the team had some challenges from the start.

“Margaux Buchanan originally asked me to come put some teams together for the handicap and open, then she got hurt a few weeks before the tournament so we scrambled to [find a replacement]. Margaux is an amazing woman and supported us and found someone to play,” she said. “And in the final, the score didn’t reflect the game. We missed a lot of goals. We could have easily won if I had made some of those goals, just freak thinks like bouncing off a divot or hitting the goal post.”

OPEN    
Woman’s Internation
Polo Network
Cindy Halle
Dawn Jones
Alyson Poor
Anna Winslow


4
6
4
4
 
Avalon Farm
Terri Campbell
Athena Malin
Tiamo Hudspeth
Paige McCabe
Amanda Poor

A
4
5
6
4
 
Island Cowgirl
Courtney Asdourian
Heather Souto
Ula Green
Julia Steiner

6
4
2
5
 
Heïades International
Lesley Ann Masterton
Fong-Yee
Lizzy Girard Parker
Minnie Keating
Izzy Parsons


4
3T
3
6T
 

IKnow, owned by Stacey Stover and played by Hudspeth, was Best Playing Pony. Wendy Stover wasn’t surprised the mare won. “The mare is so talented. [She has an] incredible mouth, super speed and [is] quick for a tall mare. She is so much fun to play!” she said.

The winners lifted the Anne Hutchinson Perpetual trophy, named for the champion of civil liberty and tolerance in the colonial era. Hutchinson established Portsmouth, Rhode Island, in 1638. She is revered in New England as a heroine of freedom.

The open consolation match followed with Island Cowgirls edging Heïades International, 4-3, in front of a large crowed.

While the preliminary matches had been played on Newport’s fields, the open final was played at the Myopia field. That match saw Women’s International Polo Network overcome Avalon Farm, 9-5.

WIPN’s Dawn Jones was named MVP and Cindy Halle’s paint horse, Eclair, was named Best Playing Pony.

The winners received commemorative liberty bowls presented on Independence weekend. The bowls are symbolic of the New England region as the cradle of American democracy. Designed by silversmith and revolutionary hero, Paul Revere, the original Liberty Bowl, signed by 92 leaders of the rebellion, is on permanent display at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

The winning team also raised the Sunny Hale Memorial Trophy, honoring Hall of Famer Sunny Hale, widely considered to be one of, if not the all-time greatest female polo player. She founded the Women’s Championship Tournament, helped develop women’s handicaps and served as a role model for many in the sport up until her death in February 2017 from breast cancer.

The Women’s East Coast Open and Handicap are WCT qualifiers for the Sunny Hale Legacy WCT finals held at Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington, Florida, in the spring.

Aside from the polo action, players were welcomed by Discover Newport with a collector’s gift from Rhode Island’s Alex and Ani, and enjoyed Newport’s famed attractions, including a tour of the port’s night life, a players’ dinner at the iconic Clarke Cooke House and culinary favorites throughout the tournament.

Dechra Veterinary Products was presenting sponsor of the tournament. WIPN’s Cindy Halle said, “It was a great event for women’s polo. Hopefully, it will grow each year. It was great for Newport and Myopia to introduce a new concept and hopefully it will be on the West Coast too.”

The winning team represents a new women’s network championed by Dawn Jones. On a GoFundMe page for the Women’s International Polo Network, it is described as a first-of-its-kind independent international network of women polo players. Its purpose is to enhance women’s polo around the world by building an online community that includes detailed player profiles and a comprehensive global calendar of women’s tournaments.

The network hopes to facilitate, play and build teams; increase global exposure for women players; build a healthy women’s polo community; and create opportunities for sponsorship and philanthropic outreach.

Hudspeth, who played in both finals, said the network is a great idea and Jones is really committed to making it happen. The Women’s East Coast Open was a great example of creating ways to increase exposure for women players.

“I met all these incredible women in the one-week tournament. It was so cool that Terri [Campbell], who wasn’t going to play at all, just stepped up. It was her first women’s tournament. She was really nervous about it and did great!” said Hudspeth. “I lost both finals but it was such a pleasure because it was really good polo, with really good sportsmanship all the way around. Everybody played really well. We did pretty well ... for a thrown-together team ...”

Halle also enjoyed meeting new people. “I was most excited to meet new players and to get to play on Myopia’s storied polo field. It was fun to go somewhere different. ... It was very competitive and will get better and better,” she said.

Halle was reminded just how great the polo community can be when her truck blew an engine on the interstate on her way home from the event. Jared Sheldon never hesitated to drive an hour to pick up the trailer full of horses and drive them to Gardnertown Polo where Bill Dencker and his interscholastic kids set up stalls and took care of her ponies. Dencker also loaned her a car to get to a hotel. “I am so grateful for the connections this sport creates,” she said. “Other than my engine blowing, a yucky thing turned into a positive experience.” The next day, her husband Ned borrowed a truck from Vicky Collins to pick her, the horses and trailer up and bring them all home.

 

-- Photos by Jacqueline Miller and John Lincourt

 

 

 

 
 
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