American Polo Pioneer
Sue Sally Hale
A Grand Slam for Polo's Grande Dame
Sue Sally Hale's Team Wins First U.S. Women's Open (1990)
It's been a long road for Sue Sally Hale, but it's a road that's finally becoming more traveled. After nearly four decades of playing polo, the 53-year old grandmother has seen women's polo come a long way from the days whe she had to disguise herself as a boy in order to play. So it was fitting that when the first USPA U.S. Women's Open trophy was awarded last December in Southern California, it was the grande dame of women's polo whose team accepted the honor.
"it took us 30 years to make it, but we're here!" said Sue Sally as corks popped and cameras clicked at Empire Polo Club in Indio, California. "Now that we have our U.S. Women's Open we can go on from here and women can get their ratings up as they should be."
Amid the swirl of events known as the Stouffer Esmeralda Resort Balloon and polo Frestival, Hale, her two daughters and five other women tore up the turf as they vied in the final of America's first open-level women's tournament of the modern era. Sandwiched between a "Balloon Glow Exravaganza" and 20-goal exhibition polo, the U.S. Women's Open final thrilled the crowd as it ran into a sudden-death seventh chukker. The event featured two international 3-goal players and , of course, America's "first family" of women players, the Hales.
Sue Sally's winning team included her 2-goaler daughters Sunny and Stormie, and their French teammate, 3 goaler Carolyn Anier, who impressed everyone with her hard-riding style. The Hales' Empire team narrowly defeated Palmera-Hanalei Bay - 3-goaler Leslie Ann Masterton of Jamaica and American 2 goalers Kim Kelly, Mary Alizon Walton and Oatsy Baker. Empire won 10-9 as Anier scored the game-breaker in the seventh chukker.
Sue Sally Hale tried for 18 years before she and a handful of women players were finally admitted into the USPA in 1972. A decade ago, the Hales and Susie Welker won the National Western Handicap, the first USPA sponsored national tournament for women. History now repeated itself, and even the losing team approved.
"The fact that Sue Sally and her daughters won the first U.S. Women's Open... it almost brings tears to your eyes," Baker said. "I was happy they won. But I want our team to go back and win next time. Maybe next year we'llget more girls out there."
Stormie gave her mother a big hug as trophies were presented. "I'd like to dedicate my share to my mom."
One other team had entered the round-robin playoffs earlier that week. Laura Dreier's Rancho del Valle - with 2-goalers Susan Stovall and Stacy Galindo and 1-goaler Laurie Ballard - pulled ahead briefly during both games, but the 5-goal team was over matched by its powerful opponents, losing 14-6 to Empire and 3-5 to Palmera-Hanalei Bay. "Even though we were up against 9-goal teams, Laura Dreier and the rest of us felt it was important to get out there and participate,"Ballard said. "That was the spirit of it."
Hale, Coach Joe Barry, Caroline Anier, Sunny Hale
Joe Barry, Sunny Hale, Stormie Hale
At the winners table - Caroline Anier, Sue Sally Hale,
Lured by other festival attractions such as an art show, petting zoo and helicopter rides, spectators came and went as the two 9-goal teams made women's polo history under sunny California skies that have nurtured more women's play than any in the world.
Although Palmera-Hanalei got off to an early lead in the first chukker, Empire dominated most of the play on an extremely fast field, beginning in the second chukker when Sunny Hale dashed 260 yards to score the second of her five points during the game. It was one of many aggressive plays for Sunny, who earned the game's Most Valuable Player award. Her efforts were enhanced by her horse, Mostro, who earned kudos for Best Play Pony.
Back-to-back points by Anier put Empire in the lead, but two goals scored by Mary Alizon Walton kept Palmera-Hanalei close behind. Walton's team had been largely defensive until this point, but in the sixth chukker, they took the offensive, scoring three consecutive goals in less than a minute to take the lead and ultimately force the game into overtime.
"At the top of the fifth, John Emery, our coach, took us aside and said we had to win the line up." Kelly said. "So we did."
"When they made those three goals, I was now getting worried." admitted Anier, Empire's No. 2 But, with less than 30 seconds left in the sixth chukker and Palmera-Hanalei leading by one point, a penaly call gave Sunny Hale the chance to score. She rose to the occasion, tying the game 9-9. In the first minute of overtime play, Anier scored the winning and final point...
By Judy Reynolds
Playing for Empire Polo Club - Caroline Anier, Sue Sally Hale, Sunny Hale, Stormie Hale
Empire Polo Club Womens' Open Team - Stormie Hale, Sue Sally
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