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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Environment Gets a Leg Up Via Golf

NAKHABINO, Moscow Region -- The wine was flowing and the cigar smoke billowing as Moscow executives gathered Friday for the National Parks Fund Deloitte & Touche Green Cup at the Le Meridien Moscow Country Club.

Nineteen teams of five players each teamed up for the day long tournament, which Yelena Zubova, executive director of the National Parks Fund, said raised about $40,000 for the fund's project to protect the rookeries of nerpa seals in the Zabaikalsky National Park.

"This is a fund I feel is independent, not political. ... People come here to have fun and give money to a good cause," said Hans Koeleman, owner of the AMS advertising company and the event's organizer.

The Unilever team claimed first place in the event, which was played as a "five-ball scramble," meaning that only the lowest score among the four members of a team is counted toward the team's final score.

"We did well. I feel honored," said Willem Van Walt Meyer, Unilever's chairman in Russia and a player on the winning team. "With all the great development in Russia, the natural environment is often forgotten. This tournament is small, but we all want to have a good environment for our children."

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, publisher of The Moscow Times.

This year's tournament raised a record amount for the fund -- cash that will go toward buying engines for boats and special equipment to combat encroaching pollution and human pressure upon Lake Baikal's nerpa seals.

"For this event, we tried to find a project people could understand," Zubova said. "Nerpa seals are cute. It is part of marketing,"

The bulk of the money was raised through an auction of the teams at the Marriott Grand Hotel on Wednesday, players' entry fees and sponsorship from 18 companies. A boisterous raffle finished off the proceedings at the golf course's clubhouse Friday.

But, for at least a day on Friday, the business talked by Moscow's expatriate elite on the greens of Nakhabino had a decidedly green flavor. "Russian culture is that resources are endless. The reality is that some species could be finished in the next 10 years," said Andrew Daniel, managing director of Land Rover in Russia. "At the end of the day, it's a political question. We shall do whatever we can do to raise awareness to [President Vladimir] Putin's government."