Polo is a sport that wasn’t really played in Columbus, until an Army infantryman named Mason Lampton came to town. And the soon-to-be Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Famer rode horses for polo on the same field as that General Patton.
“He really enjoys military history and he’s a patriot, served in the Army,” Lampton’s family friend Jake Flournoy Jr. said.
“I was a Lt. with Airborne, really enjoyed my time in the Army,” Army veteran and polo promoter Mason Lampton said.
Mason Lampton was on what was Fort Benning in the early 1970′s. Back then, the Kentucky native who loves horses was intrigued by the world class polo fields built on what’s now Fort Moore by accomplished equestrian General George S. Patton.
GEN Patton organized polo matches to test commanding officers’ ability to work as a team. Patton felt the sport taught a soldier how to think and act under pressure, like mounted combat. Friends say Lampton got a lot of people to start playing polo at his local farm.
“We went around on horses and hit beach balls, acting like we were playing polo. That’s how it all started. Once we learned how to hit the polo ball, went out to Fort Benning, played on the old field that General Patton played on,” longtime friend Frank Foley said.
A decade after getting out of the Army, Lampton founded and developed Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens, which has raised more than $4 million for the arts in 38 years of that popular event.
“He loved the idea of a polo tournament that they created together that could have such an important role in the community,” son Mason Hardaway Lampton said.
Lampton competed and won many races as an amateur jockey. He and John Flournoy also created the Upatoi Polo Cup that’s been going on 43 years, still at Flournoy Farms every Fall.
“People were coming from all over to play in our tournament,” Lampton said about the event he helped create.
And the profits benefit the Boys and Girls Club of the Chattahoochee Valley while fans watching the polo enjoy local food and handmade art.
“There’s so many things for all the families to participate in – it’s just a great day for families to be outside, having a good time, and everybody should be out here enjoying this outdoor event,” Upatoi Polo Cup announcer Mary Lu Lampton said.
Army vet Lampton will be inducted into the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame on February 24 at 10 am at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center.
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