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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Teeing Up on the Green for a Very Green Cause

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It seems quite appropriate that the National Parks Fund chose the Moscow Country Club in Nakhabino as the venue for its third annual Green Cup charity golf tournament.

The club is located only 14 kilometers from Moscow, but thick birch forests, verdant fairways and fresh air belie its proximity to the bustling city. There are perhaps few other places so close to the city that could as easily convince one of the need to protect Russia's nature.

Fifty-two golfers divided themselves into 13 teams of four to compete in the tournament Friday, which Elena Zubova, executive director of the National Parks Fund, said raised about $30,000 for one of seven pre-selected environmental conservation projects. The projects include restoring the broad-leafed forests in Ugra National Park in the Smolensk region, supporting an ecological school for children in the Pleshcheyevo Ozero National Park in the Yaroslavl region and reconstructing a 5,000-year-old settlement on the Komsomolsky Nature Reserve in the Far East.

The Green Cup is the brainchild of Zubova, who has also organized the tournament for the past three years.

"It's becoming one of the major charity events of the year," Ken Chiles, captain of the club's golf committee and a member of the BMW-sponsored team, said of the tournament.

"It has major sponsorship from Western companies because they are attracted to helping an environmental charity," he said. "This shows that many of these firms are committed to this market. They have a long-term view of the market."

ING Bank acted as general sponsor of the tournament and 14 companies, mostly foreign, were joint sponsors.

The Dobrovinsky Team took the men's top prize with a score of 58. On the team were Artyom Nesterov and Dmitry Kozhemyakin, trainers at the Moscow City Golf Club, Alexander Gruzdov, a former member of the Russian National Junior Golf Team, and Alexander Dobrovinsky, the team's sponsor and a lawyer.

The Green Cup was a best-ball tournament, meaning that only the lowest score among the four members of a team is counted toward the team's final score.

Nesterov, who took up golf six years ago and was participating in the Green Cup for a second time, said he played "not badly" and that the Moscow Country Club course was markedly easier than the Moscow City course.

"It's simply an easier course," said Nesterov, who has also played in the United States and Western Europe.

The winning women's team, with a score of 73, was the flamboyant group of Ank Vervoort, Marjanka Von den Berge, Bridget Woodhouse and Ans Boezeman. The team was sponsored by Akzo NOBEL.

"This is a very entertaining tournament — I participate because I want to support the environment," said Boezeman, who works for the DSM chemical company.

"It's good to start [playing golf] in Moscow because it's more relaxed here," added teammate Von den Berge, a native of Holland. "It's not as intense as in Holland."

At the awards ceremony following the tournament, the women danced up to the front of the room to accept their prizes — gifts from sponsor L'Etoile.

The National Parks Fund was established in 1998 by ING Bank, the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Biodiversity Conservation Center, the Social and Ecological Union and Independent Media, the publisher of The Moscow Times. the fund has raised more than $150,000 for 30 nature reserves and national parks projects over the past three years. The organization's stated goals are to preserve natural habitats that are unique to Russia, support the country's nature reserves and national parks and raise money for nature conservation projects.

ING Barings chief operating officer Ben Geels, who handed out the prizes Friday, said he is pleased with the work the fund has done but wishes that it could do more.

"It's difficult to get good players," Geels said. "Sponsorship is difficult because there are so many other tournaments here."

Derk Sauer, CEO of Independent Media, expressed concern about sparking an interest among Russians.

"Our biggest problem is getting Russians and Russian companies involved," Sauer said. "This [tournament] is still very much a thing for foreigners. Environmental awareness here doesn't exist. The country is so big and there's so much nature that they [Russians] don't really care."

At a reception sponsored by Sweet House after the tournament, guests browsed through an exhibit of children's drawings titled "Nature Heritage World" from the Biodiversity Conservation Center.

In addition to the annual golf tournament, the National Parks Fund organizes an annual charity flower bazaar at Easter to support nature reserves.