Apr 11, 2023 8:27 PM
Continuing to celebrate and honor American Polo icons, the Sunny Hale Memorial joins the Stephen Orthwein Memorial Cup as a 2023 Legacy Polo Series tournament. Stemming from a USPA initiative to recognize individual memorial tournaments at the medium-goal level, the Legacy Polo Series aims to tie the rich history of the sport and create a prestigious series that unites clubs around the country.
Considered to be one of the greatest female polo players in the world, Sunset ‘Sunny’ Hale is fondly remembered as a pioneer, advocate and professional ambassador. Raised in a polo family, Hale was encouraged from a young age to be not only a great equestrian but to advocate for women’s equality and inclusion in the sport. Instrumental in the creation of a women’s handicaps within the USPA, Hale captured the first iteration of the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship in 1990. Achieving a 5-goal outdoor handicap, Hale broke boundaries in 2000 as the first woman to win the U.S. Open Polo Championship. Serving as a USPA Governor-at-Large from 2009 to 2015, Hale was crucial in the modern revival of the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship and received the USPA Woman of the Year award in 2017 and was inducted into the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame in 2018.
Hosted by Patagones Polo Club (Wellington, Florida) in conjunction with the Wellington Polo Tour, Loudmouth (Andrew Seibert, Tomas ‘Tomy’ Willans, Lerin Zubiaurre, Kris Kampsen) went head-to-head against Beverly Polo (Bill Ballhaus, Lucas Escobar*, Jorge ‘Tolito’ Fernandez Ocampo Jr., Hilario Figueras) in the 16-goal USPA-sanctioned tournament. A high-scoring affair, the teams consistently matched each other with neither side leading by more than two goals. Requiring overtime to settle the score, Loudmouth’s top scorer Kampsen stepped up to the line and sent the golden goal through the posts to deliver his team the Sunny Hale Memorial in a nail-biting 14-13 victory.
Fresh off their 18-goal victory in the Monty Waterbury at Port Mayaca Polo Club (Okeechobee, Florida), Loudmouth re-calibrated their roster with the addition of 3-goaler Willans in place of 5-goaler Costi Caset. Trying to find the right combination for 16-goal success, Loudmouth’s team owner Seibert detailed the process of establishing a competitive organization, “We had a slow start to the year [and] we hadn’t been playing great in the 16-goal. As we’re trying to build Loudmouth long term, including the 16-goal next year, we thought it was best to work with Tomy now and get a feel for how he plays within the team.” Siebert continued, “Honestly, it was great, I think Lerin and Tomy played well together. We saw a lot of passes where Kris can sit at the back, get the ball to Lerin and Tomy could make a break.” Willans added, “I’d only ever played with Kris once time before, but not Lerin or Andrew. They made it easy because they always hit the ball up and gave me confidence.”
Deadlocked from the outset, Loudmouth’s Kampsen opened the scoring from the penalty line as Beverly Polo’s Escobar and Ocampo Jr. answered on the field. Back-to-back goals from Figueras in the second chukker combined with a drive from Ocampo Jr. gave Beverly Polo a narrow 5-4 advantage. Following back-to-back goals from Figueras and Ballhaus to take a three-goal lead, Kampsen and Zubiaurre responded for Loudmouth to tie the close contest 7-all at the break.
Detailing Loudmouth’s strategy, Kampsen shared, “Beverly is obviously a well-seasoned team, and they know each other well. We [had] to not give up any easy goals and make them really work to score on us.” Siebert continued, “I think they key for us was moving the ball quickly and understanding how they were going to play. At times we’ve had the tendency to dribble the ball but [today] we moved the ball well.” Zubiaurre added, “We tried to play our game, make it simple, fast and be disciplined on defense.”
Emerging from the break with a charge, Beverly Polo began the second half with contributions from Figueras and Escobar. Held to just two goals in the fourth, Loudmouth dug in defensively to post a shutout chukker, as Kampsen and Zubiaurre re-gained a slim one-goal lead for Loudmouth. With time winding down in regulation, Beverly Polo managed to outscore Loudmouth 3-2 in the sixth on consecutive drives from Figueras to send the match into overtime tied at 13. Leading Loudmouth with seven goals on the day, Kampsen capped-off his spectacular performance on a nerve-wracking but successful Penalty 2 conversion three minutes into the OT chukker to claim the Sunny Hale Memorial 14-13.
Elated to end the Florida season on a winning note, Siebert summarized Loudmouth’s path to victory, “We wanted to get back to basics, have fun as a team and set the groundwork. We really came together and focused on having fun and the things we do well.” Siebert continued, “It’s amazing for us to win the Sunny Hale Memorial, [Sunny] is such a legendary polo player and it’s something we’re really proud of.” Willans added, “It’s an incredible feeling to have won. I think we were lucky; it could’ve gone either way. I’m super grateful for the opportunity to play with Loudmouth.”
For his consistent leadership and steady offensive play, Kris Kampsen received Most Valuable Player. “To win a tournament is the best feeling in the world,” shared Kampsen, “It’s the culmination of hard work for everyone involved—grooms, veterinarians, players, and of course, our families that allow us the time to dedicate to this.”
Best Playing Pony was also awarded to Kampsen’s third chukker mare, 10-year-old Nala, “I purchased her as a 4 year old in Kentucky,” said Kampsen, “Her race name was Sligo Plata and I [played] her right away in high-goal. This is her third Best Playing Pony, [with] the first at Grand Champions [Wellington, Florida] five years ago. She’s the right size, athletic and has a super kind eye.”
Celebrating their final victory of a jam-packed Florida season with an asado, Siebert shared what’s on the polo horizon for Loudmouth, “We’ll play the 16-goal, 8-goal, and then the East Coast Open in Greenwich [Connecticut]. We’re going to have a pretty full summer. I think there’s a lot [to do] from a polo standpoint as it relates to getting new horses. But from a team standpoint, we’re in a good place. I think we’re starting to get a good understanding of how we work [while] focusing on the future and long-term sustainability.” Enjoying the moment, Siebert stated, “It’s nice to have a few weeks of quiet before a pretty wild, long summer!”
*Lucas Escobar is an Active Team USPA Member. 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.
All photos courtesy of ©David Lominska.
Effective Date: Saturday, May 16, 2020
The suspension of USPA Tournaments and Events will be lifted for USPA Member Clubs in locales where hosting polo matches and tournaments is permitted under applicable state and local laws, executive orders and similar decrees. The USPA Member Clubs in these locales are encouraged to follow all such requirements of their state and local authorities with respect to polo operations. In addition, we also encourage all USPA Member Clubs to take the precautions recommended by the CDC. We are preparing a detailed list of best practices for USPA Member Clubs as they return to hosting USPA Tournaments and Events and plan to circulate these guidelines within the next week. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and will notify you if we determine a different course of action is necessary.Read More