|Mon 1st Mar 2021|
Postponed 2020 U.S Open Women’s Championship Played
Nina Clarkin flies in from New Zealand to clinch the title
Back in March 2020 hopes were high for Hawaii Polo Life for a second victory in the U.S. Women’s Open, but Covid-19 had other ideas and the tournament was postponed. On 27 February the action was back on at The International Polo Club Palm Beach as the eleven month wait was over as the tournament reached it conclusion.
Last year the tournament was played up to Semi Final places, with Rocking (featuring Milly Hine and Hazel Jackson for us Brits) set to play Hawaii Polo Life and Cowdray women’s polo stalwart Lia Pearson’s Cowdray Vikings due to play BTA/The Villages. But due to logistics with the postponement and the need to get the Final played Rocking and Cowdray Vikings offered a forfeit. So action for the title fast-forwarded to the Final with BTA/ The Villages returning with exactly the same all American line-up, whilst Hawaii Polo Life swapped out Anja Jacobs for Dolores Onetto.
Hawaii Polo Life looked strong from the outset, branding their dominance on the action with three consecutive goals in the first chukka from Nina Clarkin. Despite fouls aplenty in the second chukka it was Nina Clarkin and Hawaii Polo Life who capitalised on the penalties, finding the posts twice from the Penalty 2 line. With a 5-1 tally in their favour at half time Hawaii Polo Life had certainly done what they had set out to do as Helen Flanagan explained, “We knew that they [BTA/The Villages] were going to come in really hard, so our plan was to play as hard as we could and get as many goals on the board in the first half.”
Valiant efforts from BTA/The Villages did not really gain momentum until the final chukka when they clawed back four goals with nothing in reply from their opponents. But, sadly, as so often is the case, it was too little too late and Clarkin’s dominance in the previous three chukkas meant Hawaii Polo Life clinched the victory 6-4 and so the retention of the title they won back in 2019.
It was an impressive display of strength from Nina Clarkin, despite only flying in from New Zealand the day before she notched up all of her team’s six goals herself, “I arrived yesterday, stick and balled and then came to play today, so it wasn’t ideal, but I was given amazing ponies and when you play horses of that quality it’s very easy to just get on.” The team had not had time to practice and it was Onetto’s first time playing at such a high level, which made the victory all the more remarkable.
Dolfina María, ridden by Mia Cambiaso in the first chukka was awarded the Best Playing Pony honours. Despite being on the losing side, BTA/The Villages’ Tiffany Busch was named Most Valuable Player.
Eyes will now turn to the 2021 tournament, which is due to start on 10 March, with the Final scheduled for 20 March.
2020 U.S. Women’s Open Final Teams:
American BTA/The Villages (22): Kylie Sheehan (5), Paige Boone (5), KC Krueger (6) & Tiffany Busch (6)
Hawaii Polo Life (22): Pamela Flanagan (4), Mia Cambiaso (8), Nina Clarkin (10) & Dolores Onetto (0)
Photograph: Hawaii Polo, winners of the postponed 2020 U.S Open. By ©David Lominska