Women play polo? Yes. 40% of the teams competing in the June 12-goal season at the Santa Barbara Polo Club this year are sponsored by players with XX chromosomes. Jenny Luttrell is sponsoring Cotterel and Leigh Brecheen is sponsoring Film Finance. Leigh, who is an entertainment lawyer and represents Conan O’Brien, combats another myth about polo when she says, “The only thing glamorous about polo is that the outhouses have seat covers.”
Women have come a long way in this Asiatic sport that is 2000 years old. Shrouded in black burkas and playing by the light of the moon women used to chase a ball that was illuminated by an internal candle – the ladies no longer have to play polo in secret.
Santa Barbara is not a new place for women’s polo. In the 1930’s Ann G. Jackson played and organized women’s polo tournaments. According to the Santa Barbara Polo Club website Ann owned the polo club in 1941.
The United Sates Polo Association in now 38% female (compared with 17% ten years ago when this author started playing). It is the fastest growing section of the USPA. At the 40th anniversary of Title IX, polo is not one of the sports that grew for women because of government regulations but as and a natural affect of girls coming up through Pony Club and now being able to make (and spend) their own money. Polo is a co-ed sport but there are some tournaments for women only. Sunny Hale, the highest ranked female American professional polo player created the Women’s Championship Tournament. She is rated at three goals on the grass and five in the arena. Sunny will be coming to Santa Barbara this summer to teach polo camp.
Polo handicaps range from a low of negative two and go up to ten. Seventy percent of the members of the United States Polo Association are rated at less than two. With the objective of stratifying this large group and making the teams even for low-goal competition a new rating system this year added half points for players with a handicap lower than two.
Competing in this year’s Ladies Tournament in Santa Barbara are four teams consisting of women who predominately come from the Southern California region.
Team Tresor de Vintage is named after the vintage apparel boutique that sponsored the team shirts. Team members are: Paige Beard, a Santa Barbara resident who is rated at 0 goals, Claudia Uretz (0), Kate Weber (0.5) and Melanja Jones (0). Melanja is the Santa Barbara Polo Club manager from May – October. In December through April she lives in Florida where she is the Polo coordinator for the International Polo Club.
Team Blanco/Santa Clarita consists of Connell Erb (-1), Rosanna Elordi (0), Pamela Flanagan (-1), and Jessica Bailey (1.5). Rosanna is a polo horse trainer. She works for Luis Escobar who is a professional polo player (rated at seven goals) who plays on the Farmers & Merchants Team.
Roxy Keyfauver (1), Cybele Jordan (0), Kim Kelly(0), and Rebecca Clark (-1) are playing for the Empire team. Roxy traveled from Texas to play in this tournament.
The California Polo Club team consists of Alice Zegers (-1), Emma Stachovicz (-1), Malia McCoy (0.5), and Gabby Questal (0). Gabby’s father is a professional polo player.
-Ladies Tournament Schedule-
Saturday, June 16th
2:00 Empire Polo Club vs Tresor de Vintage
3:30 Blanco/Santa Clarita vs California Polo Club
Sunday, June 17th
The object of the game is to put the ball between the goal posts. The ball may not be carried for a goal but if the horse accidently kicks it across the line - it counts. To even out the game for factors such as wind direction, turf conditions, or sunlight the direction of play is changed after each goal – this can be confusing for spectators and for players.
The current standings for the USPA Intra-Circuit, the 12-goal tournament which will take place at 1:00 on Sunday at the Santa Barbara Polo Club:
Cotterel: 1 1
Farmers and Merchants: 0 2
Film Finance: 1 2
Lucchese: 1 0
Mansour: 2 0
The next match of the USPA Intra-Circuit at the Santa Barbara Polo Club will be Sunday, June 17th at 1:00 and 3:00. Lunch and drinks are available for purchase at the events. The club is located at 3300 Via Real in Carpinteria. For more information call 684-6683.
Santa Barbara resident, Julia Michelle Dawson, is a member of the United States Polo Association and has been writing about polo for the past ten years.