San Saba Wins Women's Weekly League Season-Finale At Santa Rita Polo Farm; Dawn Laurel Jones Named Moda MVP

By Sharon Robb

 Championship team San Saba's Clarissa Echezarreta, Catharine Roze, Alyson Poor and Dawn Jones. 

Championship team San Saba's Clarissa Echezarreta, Catharine Roze, Alyson Poor and Dawn Jones. 

WELLINGTON, Fl., March 29, 2018---San Saba captured the Women's Weekly League Season-Finale Championship Wednesday at windswept Santa Rita Polo Farm.

San Saba (Dawn Laurel Jones, 6, Catherine Roze, 0, Alyson Poor, 4, Clarissa Echezarreta, 6) defeated CrossFit El Cid (Malia Bryan, 3, Slaney O'Hanlon, 3, Alina Carta, 4, Cecilia Cochran, 6), 6-0.

It was back-to-back league titles for San Saba. Last month San Saba also won the  Sunset “Sunny” Hale Memorial Tournament at Santa Rita.

Jones was named Moda Most Valuable Player after scoring all six of her team's goals.

Chici, a 10-year-old owned and ridden by Jones, was named Masai of Palm Beach Best Playing Pony.

In a battle between 16-goal teams, San Saba jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening chukker forcing CrossFit El Cid to play catch up for the remainder of the game. CrossFit El Cid had its chances but missed scoring opportunities including penalty shots that proved costly.

"It's nice to win the season-finale, it's a nice feeling," Jones said. "Luis (Echezarreta) has been our coach and is always encouraging me to go to goal. The No. 1 position has been a position I ended up playing."

Her award-winning actor husband Tommy Lee Jones, a team sponsor and No. 1 player, introduced her to the game when mostly men were playing, she said. 

"It was the safest position to play," Jones said. "Wait for the pass, run for goal and find ways to get around the big players like Tommy Biddle, which is not really easy and practically impossible.

"It is interesting if I happen to get on a transition quick turn sometimes I get lucky and score."

It was the first time Roze, an up-and-coming player, has competed with Jones, who regularly plays with Echezarreta and Poor, a Kentucky alum who worked for Harvard Polo which Jones and her husband, a Harvard alum, supports.

"Catharine is learning and doing great," Jones said. "She has a lot of desire, energy and love for the game. We are enjoying the process of cultivating the younger players and players who are trying to get more in the game. We want to see more women play.

"Clarissa and I have great chemistry and great history. We've been a family since way back in Boca. She has taught me so much about the game. She is a great player herself, at three goals one point in the men's handicap."

Jones has learned and played with the best including Sue Sally Hale, Carolyn Stimmel, Sunny Hale, Cacho Merlos, Gaston Dorignac, Daniel Gonzalez and her husband and several of his former teammates. She and her husband also spent time this past summer at the Flying H Ranch in Sheridan, Wy.

"They are doing great things there, too," Jones said. "I want to encourage everyone to play at Aspen Valley Polo Club and then hop up to Sheridan and Denver Polo Club."

Jones was part of history when her team (Dawn Laurel Jones, 6, Eric Gandomcar, 6, Tiffany Busch, 7, Clarissa Echezarreta, 6) Santa Maria de Lobos competed in the inaugural Women's Argentine Open last November

"I'm really proud and feel privileged to have the chance since Sunny's passing and being with her that day in Norman, (Okla.) that she inspired me even at that moment to carry forward this torch and mission to help women's polo and WCT. Sunny was all about bringing people together." 

Jones' hopes for the future along with other top women in the sport include unifying all players around the world, creating a calendar of women's tournaments to avoid scheduling conflicts, women's player database with profiles and women's clinics at various U.S. clubs. 

Wednesday's four-chukker championship final served as a tuneup for the upcoming  WCT Finals, hosted by Melissa and Marc Ganzi April 3-8 at Grand Champions Polo Club. The WCT draw will be held Saturday after the featured Saturday Polo John T. Oxley final at Grand Champions.

Many of Wednesday's players have competed in qualifiers for the Women’s Championship Tournament (WCT), the largest women’s league in the world which legendary Hall of Famer Sunny Hale founded to help open the door and break down barriers for girls and women. 

Hale, a part-time Wellington resident died February 26, 2017 in Norman, Okla. due to complications from cancer. She was 48.

The monthly polo league was created by Carta, one of the highest ranked women in the U.S. in the 1980s. Carta played with and against Sunny Hale in the U.S. and internationally including Singapore. Carta pitched the women's league idea to Melissa Ganzi, USPA Florida Circuit Governor and Grand Champions Polo Club president who loved it and joined forces.

"It was a great way to end the league," Carta said. "The second year was better and I think next year will be even better with more women playing. I think we stepped up the level. It was a great atmosphere and great camaraderie

"I am really happy with all the girls that played during the three months," Carta said. "It was a nice prelude to the WCT and we will continue to play. The goals I set for myself when I started this league are being acccomplished. The girls are being seen, they are having fun and playing polo." 

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 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 20-goal 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