Encapsulating The Rich Heritage Of The Ongoing US Open Women's Polo Championship
The oldest women-only contest has been significant in revolutionizing the sport that was dominated by men, making it more accessible for women.
The world’s premier all-women polo tournament hailing from the USA and has a rich heritage. In an era where women in sports were seldom appreciated, USWPA gambled on organizing the first ever all-women polo tournament in the 30s.
They are also credited with making the ‘Sport of Kings’ more accessible for the ladies; creating a women’s handicapping system similar to men’s, with one nine-goal player and several eight-goal players, but the establishment of the historical US Open Women’s Polo Championship could be considered as their crowning achievement in promoting the sport to women worldwide.
California’s Golden Gate Field was the site set to witness history in making when the first US Open Women’s Polo Championship was held on its fields in 1937. The two teams filled with female pioneers of the sport faced each other under the team banners of Riviera and Santa Barbara where the former defeated the latter 9-4.
The event revolutionized the equestrian sport and kept getting grander in successive years until the event was brought to a halt by World War-II.
The contest resurfaced in 1990 after a long hiatus. The great Sue Sally Hale, who became the first woman member of the USPA, won the tournament, leading a team of her daughters
The success that Women polo has achieved can be attributed to an extent to the late great woman of polo, who at one point of time disguised herself as a man in order to compete in tournaments.
After 1990, the tournament saw a few years of competition at Empire Polo Club. Gradually, it became a little lackluster and failed to generate sufficient public attention and hence was soon disbanded.
The next iteration of the contest came in 2011 but this time it was officially recognized as a national tournament and has garnered the status of the premier all women’s polo competition in the past 7 years.
This year marks major advances in the tournament as Susan G. Komen has partnered up with the competition as the title sponsor to further her organization’s reach as the leading breast cancer foundation. For the first time in the event’s history, the final match will be played on field one at the International Polo Club known as U.S. Polo Assn. Stadium Field.
The final of the 16-22 goal is scheduled for the 23rd of this month and can be live streamed on www.uspolo.org.
Bernard Uechtritz, the Australian founder of the Icon Global Group who is sponsoring one of the eight teams, overviewed women’s involvement in the sport perfectly:
"The once heralded and so-called horse 'Sport of Kings (and Princes and Men)' is no more. The fastest growing segment of the world's oldest and most dangerous equestrian sport of polo worldwide is now women. Fifty-two percent (52%) of the United States Polo Association (USPA) membership are female, moreover; they account for the biggest increase in new memberships” “Women's polo has arrived and is a rising tide of force in what has historically, for centuries, been a predominately male dominated sport, absent the exception of a handful, but growing number, of highly professional and competitive female athletes who now compete at the highest level of open men's polo worldwide. As a group, however, women's organized polo has been slow to emerge from a long-incubated culture of man only testosterone zone within a membership association and culture where women were once historically relegated to the sidelines as social support hosts and onlookers to male pro teams as well as catering to support and management behind the scenes," explained Uechtritz. "That has all changed."