Story: United States Polo Association. PHOTO(S): ©Kaylee Wroe Photography.
2017 finalists Rocking P and first-time qualifiers Midland Polo Club met in the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship™ Final on Sunday, November 11, at Tonkawa in Brookshire, Texas. An uncharacteristic women’s week, significant rainfall led to the U.S. Open Women’s Handicap (played simultaneously) to be moved to the arena, while Open Championship games played on back-to-back days with remarkable upsets in preliminary play.
The week was a whirlwind of unexpected activity and the superbly staffed and well-organized Houston Polo Club pulled off an outstanding tournament, each game bringing forth fast, competitive polo at the highest level. Hungry for a tournament win after losing in overtime to San Saba in 2017, Rocking P worked as a well-oiled machine to dominate the Women’s Open Final 10-2 after four chukkers of commanding play.
Both teams willing to lay it all on the line, players arrived to the field slightly over zealous, leading to fouls early in the first chukker. Rocking P’s Hazel Jackson quickly capitalized converting a penalty, followed closely by a field goal from teammate Lottie Lamacraft for an early lead. Midland Polo Club’s efforts to score fell short, resulting in a shutout first chukker.
“We played the same team before and so wanted to come in underestimating them,” shared Jackson. “We saw them play against Nina [Clarkin] the other day and they were phenomenal. We watched back their games, and came in super prepared.” Midland Polo Club managed one goal in the remainder of the first half off the mallet of Tiamo Hudspeth*, but an unstoppable Jackson continued to shoot on goal, Rocking P leading the charge at halftime 4-1.
Playing in the first half and splitting a man with her sister Courtney, 15-year-old Bridget Price, last year’s Handicap champion, remarked on her first Open experience, “it was definitely faster and so exciting to play. There was more man-to-man contact and it’s more open.”
Plays and strategies were discussed during the divot stomp and hungry for a comeback Midland Polo Club reorganized their team under the direction of coach Corky Linfoot.
Izzy Parsons worked hard to create goal shot opportunities for her team, but Midland Polo Club struggled to hold back Rocking P’s Jackson, as she hammered in three consecutive shots. “We were playing some really clean, classic polo, going in pairs.
That was really our game plan going in at the beginning, play a lot of defense so we could open up the field and let Hazel play her game,” shared Courtney Price. The gap widened, Midland Polo Club put up a solid fight until the bitter end, yet was unable to overtake the seasoned Rocking P team.
Hudspeth managed one more goal for her team, a neckshot off grey mare Pringa before the final horn sounded, signaling Rocking P’s victory 10-2.
Rocking P’s Tiva Gross was happy with her first year of Women’s Open competition. “It’s a huge honor. I’ve been trying to come here for many years and to finally get a chance, and win, is an added bonus,” shared Gross after the game. “I had a great team, they made it an absolute pleasure, it was so fun. Some great opposition too, I don’t think the score really reflected how well they played.”
Hazel Jackson was awarded Most Valuable Player contributing seven of her team’s ten goals on the day. “I love the team I chose,” exclaimed Jackson. “Karl [Price] gave me the mission of finding our team and I am so pleased I chose these girls, they are massive team players, they always take one for each other and we’ve had a super fun week as well.”
Her third chukker chestnut mare Maxima, owned by Marcos Villanueva was presented with Professional Best Playing Pony. Amateur Best Playing Pony was presented to Emma, owned by the Price family and ridden by Courtney Price in the fourth chukker. “She was a little machine today,” commented Price. “She was giving it her all—we were flying.”
*Tiamo Hudspeth is a member of Team USPA. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.