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Not everyone approved of her flashy ways, but she was a good player, and she was an accepted member of the polo community, said Samantha Charles, publisher of Sidelines equestrian magazine and Deborah's friend.
"When I first met her, I was appalled," Charles said.
When she met Fred at the University of Houston in 1979, she was on the tennis team.But after they married in 1981, his golf soon took precedence over her tennis career, and Deborah traveled with him. In the late '80s, while Fred was playing in Florida, the Coupleses rented a home at the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club in Wellington. She described her first encounter with the sport to a Miami Herald reporter in 1994: "I was mesmerized.The snorting and the foam and the clinking, the battling ... Although they already owned homes in Palm Springs, Calif., and Newport Beach, she and Fred bought a house in Wellington, and Deborah -- already an accomplished equestrian -- began to play polo. She was extreme, boorish, unique -- a woman who played with the men, cursed like them, too, and changed out of her dirty, sweaty shirt right there on the field.Glenn Straub, owner of the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club, also was surprised to hear of Couples' suicide.After watching her take on the male-dominated sport in the 1990s, Straub was impressed with Couples' toughness on the polo field, where she broke ribs and fingers, and sprained her neck.
"She was bawdy and loud, and I thought, `Who the hell is that? Fred was supportive, at first -- even though Deborah's new sport took a huge commitment of time and money.