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Offer First U.S.-British Polo Match Is Champagne Extravaganza

June 20, 1986

WINDSOR, England (AP) _ What was billed as the first U.S.-British women’s polo match turned out to be a champagne and jet-set extravaganza pitting TV stars Stefanie Powers and Pamela Sue Martin against each other.

While half the crowd of about 1,000 stood in a VIP enclosure chatting noisily and drinking bubbly, the other half watched England defeat America 6 1/2 -3 in an exciting fast-paced game Thursday.

The players - including England’s Claire Tomlinson who is the world’s top- rated women’s competitor - took the game seriously, but there were plenty of distractions for those who didn’t know a chukka from a polo stick.

People watchers could view actress Ava Gardner in clinging white, actor John Hurt in casual blue, models Jerry Hall and Marie Helvin, and Viscount Linley, the son of Princess Margaret, who tried desperately not to be photographed with his girlfriend, Susannah Constantine. He failed.

After the hour-long match, divided into four chukkas, or periods of play, there were strawberries and cream, smoked salmon, and a barbecue with roast beef and corn-on-the-cob.

A calypso band wandered from table to table serenading guests, alternating with a string quartet from the Royal College of Music. Clowns and a stilt- walker also were on hand.

Many of the spectators arrived at The Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club from the races at nearby Ascot, the men still in their top hats and tails.

″I thought it was a good match,″ said Charles Pearson, a polo player who arrived in his private helicopter. ″I was very surprised at how high the standard was.″

Julian Hipwood, the England polo captain, said he was ″most impressed″ by the play. ″I was pleasantly surprised. I thought all eight of them did exceptionally well. There was a lot of good riding, bumping and teamplay.″

The English attack was dominated by two women who together accounted for all the goals - Mrs. Tomlinson, 41, and Lavinia Black, 39.

Miss Powers, 42, a star of television’s ″Hart To Hart″ romantic thriller, played for the British team to balance the talent.

″I was trying my best,″ she said after the match, ″but all the visitors were on strange horses and you need time to get used to the horses.″

Nonetheless, she said, ″I’d rather play polo than buy a new dress.″

Miss Martin, 33, who played Fallon Carrington in the TV show ″Dynasty″ and is equally enthusiastic about polo, wore a back brace because of a recent fall. ″I thought it was a great game but I would have liked to have ridden those horses before we played.″

Similar comments about the lack of practice on the polo ponies came from the other members of the U.S. team - Alina Carta, 23, of Palm Beach, Florida; Kim Kelly, 29, of Sun Valley, Idaho; and Rowena Murray, 30, of Nairobi, Kenya, who filled in for Barbara Minty, widow of actor Steve McQueen.

″We could have won but we just lost in the third chukka - we got too confident and didn’t push enough,″ said Miss Carta, who was voted the best U.S. woman polo player in 1985.

″Claire (Tomlinson) is tough but we’ll get her back over in the States at a rematch, hopefully in Palm Beach,″ she said. ″Next time, we’ll win.″

In Britain and the United States, women usually play on mixed polo teams, though there have been women-only competitions in both countries. Mrs. Tomlinson said this was the first international women’s match.

Millionaire rock impresario Bryan Morrison, who represents Wham and other groups, dreamed up the women’s match to promote the newly opened Berkshire club, which he co-owns. The May Fair Intercontinental Hotel sponsored the event and donated the trophy.

″We’re not male chauvinist pigs,″ he said. ″But I would rather be surrounded by a lot of beautiful lady polo players than sweaty men polo players.″

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