The Wellington Polo Heroine: Sunny Hale
Wellington Polo as the sport of kings has long been dominated by men though it is well documented that women have played this sport since shortly after it was introduced in the United States. Women players were few and weren’t officially recognized by the United States Polo Association. They were banned from membership until 1956 when Elizabeth Dailey was allowed to join. In 1971, three were given handicaps: Jorie Butler Kent, Sue Sally Hale and Virginia Merchant. Still, this idea was not acceptable to everyone.
In 1977, the whole polo world was shocked when Sue Sally Hale was given a 1-goal rating and was playing with the men’s team. She then became the highest rated women player at the time when she went to 2-goals. Sally taught a lot of women to play including her two daughters: Stormie and Sunny. Stormie achieved a 2-goal handicap while Sunny changed the polo world.
Sunset “Sunny” Hale became generally recognized as the most accomplished and well respected female polo player in the world. She formerly held a 5-goal rating, the highest rank given to a woman polo player in the United States that has been matched by only one other woman in the world, Britain’s Claire Tomlinson.
Sunny was one of only two women players in the world and the first woman in the US history to win the prestigious 26-goal US Open Polo Championships.
Honoring her mother’s legacy, Sue Sally, Sunny founded the Women’s Championship Tournament (WCT) in 2005, an international and world-class women’s polo tournament series to promote women’s polo. She required all WCT participants to be registered with the USPA. Currently, it is the fastest growing division of USPA.
The following year, she founded the American Polo Horse Association to gather, record and conserve pedigrees of polo horses in the U.S. The association holds a National Polo Pony Show every year for breeders to showcase their horses.
Sunny has been named as the Woman Player of the Year by the Polo Excellence Awards seven times and was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2012. Up to now, Sunny Hale serves as an inspiration to women who want to excel in Wellington Polo.