|WELLINGTON, Fl., March 16, 2019---Most of the world's top polo players will compete in the Susan G. Komen U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship that begins Saturday at Port Mayaca Polo Club in Okeechobee.
By: Sharon Robb
The field features a combination of international and U.S. star players including Nina Clarkin, rated 10 goals, Hazel Jackson, 9, and Sarah Wiseman, 8, of Great Britain; Lia Salvo, 8, of Argentina; Argentine teenagers Mia Cambiaso, 6, the daughter of 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso, currently competing in the 26-goal World Polo League and Mia Novillo Astrada, 6, the daughter of 9-goaler Miguel Novillo Astrada; and 7-goal rated American KC Krueger.
Photo by Ramon Casares
The tournament features a record eight teams including Black Watch featuring team captain Delfina Blaquier, competing in her first open tournament and Melissa Ganzi, President of Grand Champions Polo Club and co-founder of the 26-goal World Polo League.
"I'm excited about playing," Blaquier said after watching her husband Nacho Figueras compete for Black Watch in the WPL's Palm Beach Open. "I play tournaments in Argentina and Veuve Clicquot in the U.S. but I have never played in an open tournament."
The tournament is also serving as a Women's Championship Tournament (WCT) qualifier for the April 2-6 Sunny Hale's Legacy WCT Final at Grand Champions.
The week-long tournament begins Saturday with two games. At 12:30 p.m., BTA/The Villages plays Cabo Wabo and 2 p.m. San Saba plays Cedar Croft Farms.
On Sunday, Hawaii Polo Life plays Icon Global at noon followed by West Palm Beach-based CrossFit El Cid against Wellington-based Black Watch at 1:30 p.m. Action in the double-elimination tournament continues Tuesday with four games and semifinals on Thursday. All preliminary and semifinal games are at Port Mayaca Polo Club. The tournament will be live streamed on
, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Photo by Ramon Casares
The final is March 23 at 11 a.m. at International Polo Club's stadium field, held for the first time in Wellington. A pink tailgating contest, halftime pink champagne divot stomp and brunch at the Mallet Grille along with the tournament will help raise awareness and support for breast cancer research.
|Mia Novillo Astrada
Photo by Ramon Casares
The U.S. Open Women's Polo Tournament dates back to 1930. Women's polo increased in popularity with the creation of the worldwide Women's Championship Tournament (WCT) by Hall of Famer Sunny Hale, who also created the first women's handicapping system.
The Women's U.S. Open was officially recognized as a national tournament in 2011 and hosted by the Houston Polo Club the past seven years.
Women's polo is the largest sector in the sport. Fifty-two percent of USPA membership are female and account for the biggest increase in new memberships.
The Women's Argentine Open, held for the second year this past fall, has also helped raise the stature of women's polo. All four members of the 2018 La Dolfina Brava team champion are competing. Clarkin and Cambiaso will play for Hawaii Polo Life, Milagros Fernandez-Araujo for Black Watch and Candelaria Fernandez-Araujo for Icon Global. Clarkin and Cambiaso have also competed in WCT events at Grand Champions.
Dawn Jones of 2017 U.S. Open champion San Saba, along with several other players created the Women's International Polo Network (WIPN) as a centralized website to promote and support women's polo.
Women's polo pioneers Alina Carta and Melissa Ganzi created the world's first-of-its-kind women's weekly league at Santa Rita Polo Farm. Grand Champions hosts theannual WCT Final. Several players who compete in the weekly league play are competing in the U.S. Open.
Ganzi has also raised the awareness of women in polo competing throughout the world in snow, arena, beach and grass tournaments. Recently, she became the first woman to win the 35th St. Moritz Snow Polo Tournament and was selected best playing patron.
For the first time, Susan G. Komen Florida is the title sponsor with support from the WIPN, U.S. Polo Association and U.S. Polo Assn.
Team rosters and women's rankings are:
Black Watch: Melissa Ganzi, 3, Delfina Blaquier, 1, Mili Fernandez, 7, Milagros Fernandez-Araujo, 7.
Cedar Croft Farms: Kylie Sheehan, 4, Mia Bray, 4, Alyson Poor, 4, Julia Smith, 5.
CrossFit El Cid: Malia Bryan, 4, Cecelia Cochran, 5, Tiva Gross, 6, Izzy Parsons, 7.
San Saba: Sarah Siegel-Magness, 0, Dawn Jones, 6, Lia Salvo, 8, Sarah Wiseman, 8.
BTA/The Villages: Maddie Grant, 4, Paige McCabe, 5, KC Krueger, 7, Courtney Asdourian, 6.
Cabo Wabo: Roni Duke, 2, Hope Arellano, 5, Hazel Jackson, 9, Gillian Johnston, 6.
Hawaii Polo Life: Anja Jacobs, 2, Pamela Flanagan, 3, Mia Cambiaso, 6, Nina Clarkin, 10.
Icon Global: Mia Novillo Astrada, 6, Olivia Uechtritz, Cande Fernandez-Araujo, Clarissa Echezarreta, 5.
Susan G. Komen Florida is the world's largest breast cancer organization, funding more breast cancer research than any other non-profit while providing real-time help to those facing the disease.
Komen Florida is working to better the lives of those facing breast cancer in local communities across its service area of southwest, central, north, south and the Florida Suncoast regions.
Komen Florida has invested nearly $57 million in community breast health programs and has helped contribute to the more than $988 million invested globally in research. For more information, call 561-514-3020 or visit
"We are grateful to the United States Polo Association, U.S. Polo Assn., the International Polo Club, and the Women's International Polo Network for giving Komen Florida such a visible presence among the polo community to share our message and educate more women about breast cancer," said Kate Watt, executive director of Komen Florida.
"As first responders to breast cancer in 64 counties throughout Florida, the funds we raise through the championship event will help us increase access to quality breast health care for those who can't afford it and decrease the 2,700 deaths from this disease in our state every year."
The Great Futures Celebrity Polo Match kicked off March Madness at Grand Champions highlighted by the 26-goal World Polo League, $50,000 National 12-Goal, John T. Oxley Memorial, $100,000 World Cup (0-40) and Women's Weekly League.
During the winter polo season, Grand Champions, the nation's largest and innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club, is hosting 24 tournaments: 6, 8, 12, 20, and 0 to 40 goals, WCT Finals and women's weekly league play and 26-goal World Polo League tournaments at both Grand Champions, Valiente Polo Farm and several other fields in the area.
Grand Champions tournaments attract a large international field of players from all corners of the world including India, Mexico, New Zealand, Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Germany, Uruguay, Azerbaijan, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Venezuela and England.
Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique 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 three polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation including one field for stick-and-ball with plans to build more polo fields in the future.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels and ages. 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, created by Grand Champions President Melissa Ganzi when the club first opened in 2007.
The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. Scholarships are available. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November. Headed by Director of Operations Juan Bollini, The Polo School has nurtured several men and women polo players now playing in the pro and amateur ranks since its inception.