WELLINGTON, Fl., February 22, 2018---The much-anticipated Sunny Hale's Legacy WCT Finals will be held April 3-8 at Grand Champions Polo Club.
By Sharon Robb
After a year's hiatus, the Women's Championship Tournament finals and Women's Polo Week will continue the legacy of Hale, the sport's all-time greatest women's polo player recently inducted posthumously into the Polo Hall of Fame. Hale died at age 48 on Feb. 26, 2017.
The only women's polo event of its kind and largest polo league in the world will use women's handicap ratings for the fourth year. The handicaps were pioneered by Hale and were implemented in 2014 ago by the U.S. Polo Association, the sport's national governing body. The WCT Finals has a history for attracting players from throughout the U.S. and internationally.
Three flights of competition will be held: 0-8 goal, 8-16 goal and open (16-and-up). Entry fees will be $600 (0-8), $1,000 (8-16) and $1,200 (open). There is also sponsor opportunities for team shirts naming rights for $1,000.
There is a $100 fee per team to have team horses registered in the American Polo Horse Association where horses will be recognized and grooms have the opportunity to win cash prizes.
The APHA was created in 2006 by Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms. Tiana Smicklas, daughter of WCT Commissioner Dale Smicklas, is executive director of the APHA.
Hale, the first woman in U.S. history to win the U.S. Open in 2000 with Outback, inspired women and junior players to play polo throughout the world which was her vision when she created the WCT twelve years ago. Those women, including Florida Circuit Governor and Grand Champions President Melissa Ganzi, WCT Ambassador Joanne Smicklas and Alina Carta, another one of the sport's pioneers who heads the Women's Weekly Polo League Series at Grand Champions, plan to continue Hale's vision.
Hale and Ganzi joined forces to bring the WCT Finals to Grand Champions.
"The fact the WCT Finals are in Wellington sets the whole stage," Hale said before the 2016 WCT final. "Women are inspired to play here. Grand Champions does a fantastic job. What it does for the WCT is it brings legitimacy to the fact they put on a great show, they've got great fields and you are right in the center of everything.
"That's why women's polo is in a new place in this generation because it never used to be a featured event," Hale said. "Grand Champions has taken it to that level and really gotten behind it. When I started playing women's polo it was a big deal if you got on a main field and that was a big if."
Women's polo remains the largest growing sector in polo, aided by the WCT Series founded in 2005 to help consolidate women's polo and promote high quality competition around world.
Palm City Polo, with two rising teenagers, won the April 17, 2016 Season 11 WCT Final. In a thrilling championship final, Palm City Polo (Jaqui Casey, Hope Arellano, Tiffany Busch, Mili Galindo) defeated Scribble Horse Polo Team (Kathy Iverson, Katherine Roze, Courtney Asdourain, Kirstie Allen), 5-4. Arellano, then 13 and the youngest player in the tournament, was named Most Valuable Player. Arellano has been playing since she was 6 and was inspired by Hale.
In the consolation game, Catena USA (Malia Bryan, Belinda Brody, Cecelia Cochran, Leah Masters) defeated Creative Marketing (Lyndsay Dolan, Dawn Weber, Amanda Roberts, Ashley Mckenzie), 8-2. Bryan, then 15, was named Most Valuable Player.
For the second year in a row, the Sapphires (Jennifer Pascarelli, Riley Ganzi, Jaqui Casey, Jennifer Williams) won the fourth annual WCT Junior Invitational with a 2-0 victory over the Diamonds (Ava Rose Hinkson, Alyssa Tranchilla, Hannah Reynolds, Maureen Brennan). Hale coached the Sapphires and Gillian Johnston coached the Diamonds.
Tournament entry forms will be available next week. For more information call 561-644-5050. Tournament contacts are Juan Olivera, Joanne Smicklas and Alina Carta.
The tournament will be livestreamed by ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique 100-acre polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in five 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 11 well-manicured fields, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events.
The club features monthly 6, 8 and 12-goal tournaments and women's weekly league play during the winter season in addition to two 16-20 tournaments, $50,000 National 12 Goal, $100,000 World Cup winner-take-all 0-40-goal tournament, WCT Tournament and USPA National President's Cup.
During the 2017 winter season Grand Champions attracted a record 72 teams and another 18 teams during the spring season.
Grand Champions 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.
The Club Hotline is 561-644-5050. It will be updated every day at 8 a.m. for both players and fans.