New England Challenge Match Report

Battle of the Sexes

Date: Thursday, September 24, 2020

With much anticipation, the Newport Women lined up against the Newport Men for the 4th Battle of the Sexes in the New England Challenge on Saturday, September 26 in the Newport International Polo Series.  Inaugurated in 1993 with teams including celebrity players Stephanie Powers and Major Ronald Ferguson, the men were the first to take the cup, with repeats in 2018 and '19.  The bucolic day with welcome coastal breezes saw polo fans embracing the season change with autumn decore dotting the field's perimeter, lawn games, barbecues, and other amusements to enjoy the penultimate match of the season.

Player introductions welcomed the Newport Women in red with Catie Reed and Mia Purdom alternating at #1, Katie Mitcham at #2, Amanda Roberts in the captain's seat at #3, and Minnie Keating at #4.  Defending for the Newport Men were Clark Curtis and Jed Pearsall alternating at #1, Roger Souto at #2, with Dave Bullis at #3, and Sam Clemens at #4.

The crowd stood at attention for the national anthem, with flags flying at half-mast in honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Christon Gibson of Newport Living & Lifestyles officiated the coin toss to determine the starting direction for the teams.  Color commentary during the match was provided by the beloved, William Crisp, regarded as the world authority on polo commentating.  Live video action and instant replays were produced on the polo world's first Jumbotron video wall scoreboard.

Newport Women made a decisive start to the match with a goal by Reed out of the first throw-in, only 10 seconds into the game.  Keating followed a minute later for a 2-0 lead.  Bullis saw to the Men's first goal to end the first Chukker, 2-1 in favor of the Women. Chukker 2 brought tighter defense in the first few minutes until a costly mistake by the Men gave Keating a penalty hit that she converted to the Women's 3rd goal.  Then, Keating followed with another goal during regulation play for a 4-1 lead.  The Men struggled to regain momentum in the 3rd Chukker when Keating passed the defenses again for a 5-1 lead by the WomenBullis finally broke through with two goals, followed by one from Clemens, but the Men still trailed 4-5 at half-time.

The 20-minute half-time drew the lawn games back out, while some members of the limited spectator audience took to the field for a masked and socially-distanced divot stomp to repair the pitch for the second half.  The time-honored tradition helps replace the tracts of grass torn up by the horses for a smooth surface and faster play to conclude the match.  Those venturing to the Patio Bar enjoyed Newport Polo's signature sips, including the popular Drink of the Day, a Battle Bellini with variations for the Men's and Women's teams, alongside the full menu of specialty cocktails, boutique wines, craft beers, and premium spirits.  Mouthwatering delights from the on-site food trucks were dished up, including handmade pizza, gourmet hotdogs, kettle corn, homemade ice cream, gelato, donuts, and shaved ice.  New limited edition official sportswear was on offer in the fieldside Pro Shop, with new items added weekly alongside the classic collection of teamwear.  Old Glory rippled at centerfield next to the national flag of South Africa in a row of 34 international flags overhead that have participated in former seasons.

As spectators reveled in the last throws of summer, the teams met in their respective camps to discuss strategy for the second half.  Newport Men stepped up defense, focused on Keating, the Women's primary scorer.  Then, another infraction by the Men gave Keating a penalty hit on goal, converted to the 6th point for the WomenClemens balanced with a goal for the Men, followed by another from Keating that maintained the Women's lead, 7-5.  A breakthrough by the Men with a goal by Souto and two by Bullis put them in the lead 8-7.  The advantaged was short-lived, however, when Keating converted her 3rd penalty hit of the day to even the score 8-all. One minute into the final chukker, Keating put the Women back into the lead with a goal during regulation play, padded by her 4th penalty conversion for a 10-8 lead.  Meanwhile, every attempt on goal by the Men was rebuffed, with a last drive deftly met by Roberts in the goalmouth as the final bell signaled the Newport Women's first Battle of the Sexes victory.

The teams took their traditional salutatory lap around the perimeter, giving farewell gestures to the applause of grateful attendees, a tradition originating at the Newport International Polo Series in 2003, and now emulated at polo clubs around the world, followed by the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Toast & Trophy Presentation where the perpetual Liberty Bowl was presented to Newport Women and high-scorer laurels to Minnie Keating with an impressive 7 goals.

Resident portrait photographer Quison Lawhon captured family gatherings and picnics in Autumn decor & attire (published online at Cocoa & Co.) in contention for Best In Show honors from Stella Artois awarded by guest judge, Newport Living & Lifestyle'Christon Gibson, and a chance to grace the party pages of an upcoming issue of Boston Common Magazine, while enjoying one of this season's rare 17 matches, still the only live attended sporting event in New England since the start of the pandemic. 

Safety being a top priority, RI State approved COVID-19 safety measures are in effect at the polo grounds this season (plan details) including reduced capacity with socially-distanced tables in the Davitt Pavilion, fieldside Tailgates and Picnic Patches on the lawn from which to view the matches at the polo grounds, sold-out audiences have enjoyed the Newport International Polo Series polo matches every Saturday since Opening Day on June 6, where spectators for nearly 30 years have witnessed the timeless sport unfold on the manicured, emerald green at Glen Farm, home of the Polo Series for the past 28 seasons, in a classic exhibition of horsemanship and valor, with host, the Newport Polo Club, where the home team - Newport/USA - meets challengers each season from around the world and as well as teams representing major US cities and regional rivals in one of Newport's unique traditions & renown attractions.  

The Polo Series is scheduled to continue every Saturday through September. The schedule of teams is subject to change, as per RI State mandates in effect at the time, on international travel and Adult Sports.  Stay current with the 2020 team lineup & stats, latest news, events, and more by e-scription to the Gameday Briefing (sign up) and weekly eMagazine (sign up). Both subscriptions are private and spam-free.

The Polo Grounds' favorable proximity to the shores of the island's Sakonnet east passage provides reliably cool coastal effects, moderating afternoon temperatures and providing a dependable breeze for the late afternoon polo matches all summer.  Minutes from the bustling Newport waterfront, the International Polo Grounds are located on the acreage of Glen Farm, 250 Linden Lane (off of Rte. 138) in Portsmouth, RI. This bucolic setting is the last 100 acres of a pre-colonial settlement from the 1600’s that became the Town of Portsmouth's original gentlemen's farm, an 800-acre manorial estate established during a Gilded Age movement of retreat from the high life into pastoral country acres, that would become the future home of polo in the next century. Its classical 19th century stone barns and its park-like grounds were rehabilitated by Polo Series founder, Dan Keating in the early 1990’s and continue to thrive as an equestrian & community recreational property, and home of the Polo Series.  

The Newport International Polo Series is honored to present its 2020 sponsors including Gallo|Thomas InsuranceDavittBoston CommonHotel VikingThe ChanlerThe Newport Harbor Hotel & MarinaVanderbilt International PropertiesVeuve ClicquotClarke Cooke HouseStella ArtoisROCKSTAR LimoAtria Senior LivingGoslingsMcGrath Clambakes and Catering, and promotional partners including The Cocktail GuruTYGER | Event Design + ProductionNewport Jaguar ToursNewport Helicopter ToursAmerica's Cup ChartersInternational Tennis Hall of FameNewport MansionsIsland Surf and SportNewport Sport Fishing ChartersProvidence River Boat Company, and Newport Harbor Guide.  Special thanks to Schultz Marketing Partnerships, Van Liew TrustTanglewood, and WCRI Classical Rhode Island.  “Our sponsors have been with us since the beginning. Without their support, the Series would not be as extensive as it is,” explains Dan Keating, Polo Series founder.

This is the 29th season of Newport International Polo Series, which has hosted teams from 34 nations including, Ireland, Germany, Spain, England, Argentina, France, Egypt, India, Australia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Canada, Chile, Jamaica, Nigeria, Portugal, New Zealand, Barbados, Scotland, South Africa, Hungary, Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Kenya, Brazil, China, Italy, Mexico, Sweden, Singapore, Monaco, Morocco, Peru, and Poland.

Cover Photo by Kevin Bernard.  View the Album

Polo, Since 600 b.c.

Polo is, without doubt the oldest ball game in the world today. First recorded in the 6th century b.c. when the Turkomans beat the Persians in a diplomatic tournament, the alluring game caught on with equestrian royalty and cavalry, and took off with globalization, withstanding the tests of time. By the time Polo arrived on Newport’s shores during the Gilded Age, the sport was nearly 2500 years steeped in tradition, captivating newcomers like Newport's summer sporting set who embraced the new pastime, establishing America's first polo club in 1876.  A charter member of the United States Polo Association, the club today is still a trailblazing model polo club, hosting the Newport International Polo Series public exhibition matches, supporting philanthropic causes, organizing tournaments, polo club member services and polo instruction year-round. Experience the king of games in its American landing at Newport Polo.