California ladies’ tournament benefits girls’ organization

Santa Barbara Polo Club in Santa Barbara, California held its inaugural WCT Women’s Polo Qualifier tournament from July 8-11. It was all made possible thanks to numerous horse donors, Tournament Director Paige Beard, Polo Manager Melanja Jones and many others. Four teams filled out the roster at the 3- to 6-goal level, while another four teams competed at the entry level. While the event served as an enjoyable competition etween women, it also helped inspire young girls and raised money for the non-profit organization, Girls Inc.

The mission of Girls Inc. is to empower girls to pursue the biggest dreams they can dream and inspire them to become leaders of tomorrow. The Girls Inc. movement dates back to the industrial revolution when young women from rural communities searched for job opportunities in textile mills and factories. At the WCT, members of Girls Inc. witnessed women living their dreams on the back of a horse.

The tournament started with a cocktail party and calcutta on Thursday night. Not surprisingly, Tresor de Vintage, with Sunny Hale and Argentina’s Natascha Baecher, topped the calcutta at $800.

The first round matches began the next morning. The 3- to 6-goal WCT flight started with a bang as the Eldorado team of Jessica Bailey, Gina Padilla, Angela York, and Kate Weber took on the very strong Tresor de Vintage team, which had Claudia Uretz and Paige Beard joining Hale and Baecher. Tresor de Vintage hit the ground running and never looked back, scoring three goals in the first chukker and padding its lead with great defense to win the game by a commanding five goals, 6-1. Hale topped the scoring.

The Entry Level game that followed had the same point spread as the first, however it proved to be much more fluid. Los Banditos’ Roxy Keyfauver, Erica Gandomcar, Carla Garichotte and Abby Riggs topped Jaeger LeCoultre’s Leigh Brecheen, Tiffany Busch, Karen Reese and Cybele Jordan 10-5. The game started off fast and furious with six goals being scored in the first chukker alone. From there, the scoring frenzy continued, many from Riggs who led the scoring, and Jaeger LeCoultre could not keep pace.

Sunny Hale and Paige Beard gave a polo demonstration to girls attending camp at the Carpinteria and Santa Barbara chapters of Girls Inc. later that day. The girls got to pet Cowgirl, a grey polo pony, and then try their hand at hitting a ball with a foot mallet. They all went home with pink WCT/Girls Inc. t-shirts and smiles on their faces.

Pat and Ursula Nesbitt hosted a barbecue that evening. A highlight of the evening was a challenging game of Polo Jeopardy between high-goal male players and members of women’s teams. Categories included celebrity swingers, polo history, embarrassing moments, and are you smarter than a 5th grader. Kate Weber emceed the lively competition.

An Entry Level match started out the action on Saturday. Excitement was at an all-time high since for some of the girls it was their first tournament, and for many more it was the first time on the Santa Barbara fields. The action began with Team Cone’s Ashley Cone, Daisy Winter, Gabby Questal and Danielle Travis taking on Holiday Inn Express’ Stephanie Preston, Roseanna Elorde, Karen and Kelly Shaw splitting, and Madelyn Cobb. Initially only one goal separated the teams, however that quickly changed as Team Cone expanded its lead to three in the second and never looked back, winning 7-2. Gabby Questal had the hot stick in the match.

Hale conducted a players’ clinic in the afternoon, focusing on hitting drills and form. Later, in the clubhouse, she discussed specific plays and took questions.

The last of the first round games in the Entry Level division pitted Oldman & Cooley’s Therese Volmer, Kim Garced, Alice Zegers, and Susan Cooley alternating with Nancy Louie, against Blanco Texas/Film Finance’s Chloe Bourgeois, Connell Erb, Kerstie Allen and Michelle Myers. This game was by far the more exciting of the first round matches. It started the same way as all the other games with Blanco Texas/ Film Finance holding a commanding lead over its opponent, however in the last chukker Oldman & Cooley woke up and outscored Texas by three goals to send the game into overtime.

Texas stopped Oldman & Cooley in the nick of time. High-scorer Chloe Bourgeois took the ball out of the opening lineup and put it through the uprights to end the game. After the match, many of the girls headed to the beach for a sunset ride and photo shoot followed by cocktails and dinner at the Golden Nugget.

The games started at 9 a.m. on Sunday with the Entry Level consolation, featuring Holiday Inn Express and Oldman & Cooley. Oldman & Cooley jumped to a quick lead but was peppered in the fourth by Holiday Inn and ended up losing 4 to 3. Therese Volmer led the scoring.

Next up was the consolation final of the WCT Level between Eldorado and Jaeger LeCoultre. The teams were looking for redemption after first round losses and both played very well but in the end, Jaeger LeCoultre took the 5-4 win.

The final of the Entry Level flight had Team Cone taking on Blanco Texas/Film Finance. From the start it was apparent it was going to be a tight battle. Team Cone took a one-goal lead in the first chukker and kept it all the way until the fourth. The game wasn’t decided until the final minutes when the Cone team burst out with four goals, securing the 9-6 win. Gabby Questal led the scoring and Chloe Bourgeois was MVP, taking home a beautiful antique horse coin from Nancy Louie and Horsecoinjewelry.com. Fiona, owned by Tom Sikes and played by Bourgeois in the first and fourth chukker, won BPP. Ashley Cone won Best Sportsman.

Finally, on the club’s main field in front of hundreds of screaming fans, the defenseminded Tresor de Vintage team took on the offense-minded Los Banditos. In the first chukker, it looked as if Los Banditos was going to be too much for Tresor de Vintage as it went down 3-1. However, Tresor de Vintage was not about to let their fans down, and matched its opponent goal for goal in the second. De Vintage narrowed the gap to one in the third. Sunny Hale took charge in the final period, scoring three goals to take a two-goal lead. Los Banditos’ Erica Gandomcar made a last charge to goal to come back within one but it was too little, too late as Tresor de Vintage was crowned the champion.

Sunny Hale was the high scorer, while Abby Riggs was MVP and took home a beautiful Jaeger LeCoultre watch. Paige Beard’s third chukker horse, McGhee, won Best Playing Pony and Claudia Uretz won Best Sportsman. The real winner, however, was Girls Inc. A portion of sponsorship dollars and all proceeds from the final day were presented to officials from Girls Inc. so it can continue to inspire girls to be strong, smart and bold. —Paige Beard, Wiley Uretz and Julia Dawson contributed to this report.

POLO Players' Edition 2773 W Forest Hill Blvd, Suite 206 • Wellington, FL 33414 Phone: 561.968.5208 Fax: 561.968.5209 Email Address: info@poloplayersedition.com

Polo Players Edition Online Magazine, a publication dedicated to the sport of polo and the lifestyle of polo players, is copyright protected. NOTHING from this site may be copied without permission of the publisher.