Photo credit:
Kaylee Wroe Photography

British born Annabel Milnes-Smith, at the aged of 17 joined New Woman Magazine as a receptionist.  Within 3 weeks, she was promoted to Assistant Beauty Editor.  It was then that her journalistic career was born.  She went onto to work for such broadsheets as The Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, Daily Mail and Daily Express.  This culminated in her becoming Social Editor of OK! Magazine, editing 18 pages a week, interviewing and meeting such ‘A’ list celebrities as Bruce Willis, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones,

polo championship_polo lady journalists

Goldie Hawn, Roger Moore and Michael Caine amongst hundreds of others. Over twelve years ago she decided it was time for change and moved to Marbella where she flourished once again as a journalist, having her own social column in the high profile magazine Hi (now Society) and writing numerous features for principal magazines and newspapers on the Costa del Sol.

Northern Trust triumphs over Rockin’ P/The Plank Co’s in the heart-stopping final of the 2015 USPA Open Women’s Polo Championship ® at the Houston Polo Club

The Houston Polo Club in the heart of Texas where women’s polo was first introduced in the 1980’s, played host once again to one of the most prestigious women’s polo championship; the United States Polo Association’s 5th Annual Open Women’s Polo Championship® titled ‘Grace Under Pressure’, sponsored by champagne company Freccianera.This year’s finals were undoubtedly one of the most exciting seen in recent times with

Northern Trust competing against Rockin’ P/The Plank Co’s for the Championship trophy. The action on the pitch was fast and furious throughout with Northern Trust coming back from a three-goal deficit in the last chukka after suffering two penalty runs in a row.  There was a penalty one called against them.  The ball was thrown in at the fifteen yard line with Rockin’ P/The Plank Co’s taking possession with Northern Trust foaling again; Rockin’ P/The Plank Co’s was then awarded another penalty one.

polo championship in action

They raced ahead with a three goal lead with four minutes remaining.  Everybody thought that Northern Trust was beaten.  However the girls were undeterred.  They came back with two goals and trailing by only one goal. Kristy Outhier took the ball and made a beautiful cut shot. She got a pass there with thirty seconds after the first bell had rang.  It ended up deflecting off the inside of the goalpost but the umpires were able to see that it never touched the line.

It deflected onto the field six or eight inches.  Caroline Anier came in on a tough angle right at the goal post, pulled her horse to the left and made a shot between her horse’s front legs and cleared it.  It finished with Julia Smith falling pretty hard behind the goal post.  The umpires Fergus Gould and Brent Mirikitani waited until the ball was in a neutral territory and then blew the whistle.  There was still 15 seconds on the clock. The score was 7-7.

There followed another throw in from the boards 50 yards from The Northern Trust goal line. Northern Trust took control of the ball toward their goal and then Rockin’ P/The Plank Co’s fouled and landed with an open goal penalty which Northern Trust scored as the match went into overtime. They won 8-7 in nail-biting final chukker. The crowd was ecstatic.  The atmosphere electric.

Throughout the three day tournament the line-up was impressive.  They had over 70 women players participating.  British player Sarah Wiseman played brilliantly with a 7 goal handicap.  Also playing was Caroline Anier, a veteran of the game, who has held an outdoor 4 goal regular handicap (not just women’s) for many years and played all over the world and Kristy Outhier (formerly Kristy Waters) played magnificently throughout.  The two players that undeniably stood out during the tournament were Argentinean player Lia Salvo; the highest handicapped female player in Argentina and Hazel Jackson who played for Rockin’ P/The Plank Co’s and is in her prime.  She was one of the best players in the tournament.

 Lia was on the Freccianera winning team of the USPA Women’s Handicap Tournament and also played for BTA Polo team who were knocked out of the finals by the Rockin’ P/The Plank Co’s team when Hazel broke the tie in an overtime shoot-out.

Many of these girls played in the two tournaments the USPA Open Women’s Polo Championship® – 20-26 goal played on the flat with no handicaps given, with the USPA Women’s Handicap – 14-18 goals. There were 6 teams in the latter and four teams in the Open.

The atmosphere and ambience of ‘The Open’ officially organised by the Houston Polo Club and the USPA was undoubtedly breath-taking for players and spectators alike with over a 1000 strong cheering crowd at the presentation of the Championship Trophy by Gian Mario Travella from champagne sponsor Freccianera.

The weather conditions were ideal; warm and humid despite a tremendous amount of rain beforehand which thankfully did not affect the fields.  Towards the end of the tournament it was sunny and warm with a nice breeze. Ideal conditions for both ponies and players alike.

Of course after such a tremendous climax to the three-day tournament, the players were treated to lavish hospitality, not only on the eve of the final but throughout the entire event. Parties were hosted by private individual owners of the numerous fields and ranches surrounding the Club.  The first party to celebrate the

start of the 3 day tournament was hosted by one of the sponsors at a Hotel in Houston. It was Asian style themed with sumptuous canapes and wine flowing throughout. There were many others including a magnificent party hosted by Houston Polo Club at Esther Kane’s gorgeous polo ranch home. They cooked asado- a typical Latin American dish of grilled beef and chicken with all the accoutrements finishing with a medley of mouth-watering desserts complimented with an open bar throughout the night including the sponsors champagne Freccianera. Everyone from the tournament was invited.

The Houston Polo Club itself is located in what many would describe ‘a very cool setting.’ It is an old Club located in the heart of the city.  The Club exudes an urban feel with a raised highway at the end of the field combined with a heavenly countryside backdrop of old oak and pecan trees where the grandstands back onto. The hospitality boxes are old style and could be likened to the style of Guards Polo Club in England.

women polo championship in USA

Houston Polo Club does not have a Clubhouse as such, but under their umbrella are ranches where matches are played on within the surrounding area, owned by Club members and each have their own Clubhouse.  These incorporate Tonkawa, Isle Carol owned by the Goodman Family, Scott Wood’s ERG, Pecan Acres and Kristi Goodyear’s Ranch.

The United States Polo Association have been integral in the promotion of Women’s polo. With their collaboration and endorsement of Houston Polo Club, they are regarded as principal pioneers and supporters of women’s polo in the USA; 43% of the Club members are women.  The USPA’s plans for Houston Polo Club in 2016 include once again hosting The USPA Open Women’s Polo Championship® and the second tournament is the USPA Women’s Handicap, held on the parallel dates of this year’s tournament, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday for the Open.  Wednesday, Friday and Saturday for the Women’s Handicap.

Bob Puetz, the Executive Director of the USPA, has an impressive background.  He has been playing for over forty years and a USPA member for the majority of that time. Although now retired as a player, his handicap was 5 outdoor and 7 in the arena at the height of his career.  He grew up in Chicago, played in the Chicago Armory Polo Club and then moved on as a ‘pro’ to California, where he managed The Empire Polo Club for over thirteen years playing in San Diego and Santa Barbara. He has played all over the world including in England alongside The Prince of Wales.  These days he still finds playing polo infectious but more with players who just want to have fun rather than winning trophies.

He is an enormous supporter of Women’s Polo in the USA, Says Bob, “It is great to see how strong and good the women’s polo is.  When I was managing The Empire Polo Club in the 1990’s we hosted the Women’s Open there.  Even at that time we had Claire Tomlinson playing, Sally Hale and her daughters Sunny and Stormy, Carolyn Anier, Lesley-Ann Masterton from Jamaica, Stacey Galindo together with Carolyn Anier, Kristy Outhier and Dayelle Fargey from Canada who are all veterans.   It was a different group.  Now because of the growth of women’s enthusiasm for polo, there are many young women participating like Julia Smith, Sarah Wiseman, Courtney Price (in her teens and at High School) and Kendall Plank who is in college.  They are all up and coming, playing alongside renowned players such as Hazel Jackson who played for Rockin’ P/The Plank Co’s and Maureen Brennan, Captain of the Northern Trust team who may be a little bit older but plays 12, 14 and 16 goal polo including men’s polo.  Maureen is a strong rider, has excellent horses and a great organiser of the team, their meetings and strategies.  This was irrefutably verified when they won the USPA Open Women’s Polo Championship®.

I am so tremendously happy that POLO LADY is covering this.  I think it is great for women’s polo worldwide, where it is now and how powerful it is”.

His final words ‘Polo is still undoubtedly the passport to the world’; that is for sure”.

women polo championship in USA

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