Polo legend Sunset “Sunny” Hale passed away on Sunday, Feb. 26, at an Oklahoma hospital due to complications from breast cancer, reports sister Stormie Hale. She was 48.
Hale’s impact on the sport is immeasurable. She smashed barriers like she smashed the ball, breaking through to the top of a decidedly male-centric sport. Hale made history in 2000 when she became the first woman to win a US Open Championship, playing for Adolfo Cambiaso’s Outback Team. She earned numerous most valuable player awards in top-flight tournaments around the world, bringing an entirely new generation of women into the sport along the way.
But Hale didn’t play the game to be some kind of groundbreaking pioneer; as the Washington Post describes, she just loved the sport.
She enrolled at a community college in Moorpark, Calif., but dropped out, she once said, after looking down at her notes in a psychology class and realizing all she had written down referred to polo.
Turning pro at 18, she encountered resistance on the field and off.
“I’ve had guys say they’re going to run me over, going to kill me,” Ms. Hale told Sports Illustrated in 1997. “I’ve been called every word in the bad-word dictionary. I’m in a sport where it’s more common for men to be good than for women. So I’m going to take some criticism. And I’m willing to take that. I’m more interested in playing a good game than reacting angrily to someone who’s just being chauvinistic.”
US Polo: In Memory of Sunny Hale