!4th September,2015

Moscow

 ~~The next Russian revolution is golf. Moscow is 2 ½ hour flight from Bucharest. The country of Romanovs, czars, commissars and other assorted autocrats. The trip had begun well. The woman at Aeroflot check-in desk asked me what is in the big bag that I take with me to Moscow, I replied “My golf clubs” she looked at me in a disturbing way and said;”Why would you be taking your golf clubs to Moscow?”It was a good question. Got me thinking “Where am I? What am I doing? Why?” this is still Bucharest, Romania where golf is still struggling to grow. I am going to Russia to play golf a country which makes good cosmonauts, gymnasts, chess players and totalitarians, certainly, but golfers?The drive from the airport to Radisson Royal was 45 minutes.I arrived and ordered my vodka.
Invited by a very good friend and a student of mine. The Vodka tasted good and in the first night he took me to a restaurant in Moscow called “White Rabbit” I washed my hands with Vodka. They said “Demi, washing your hands with Vodka is  very good dizinfectant”. The food was great and the Russian people really know how to eat. The cuisine is one of the best I have seen. When I left Bucharest for Moscow I was armed with 3 words “Da” “Niet” and “Vodka” my golf clubs and optimism.
I discovered that are Russian golfers who plays the game by the rules and very well. Our western propaganda from our governments about Russia which I grew to know in the 80s  “cold war” it was clear to me now that all was just “Bullshit” as we say in Australia. I don’t know about Russian goverment propaganda about the west but Moscow is one of the most beautiful cities that I have seen and the people are great. Women are smiling something that I don’t see on the faces of Balkan women.I still believe  the most beautiful women are the ones who smile. Russia has also produced some of the most beautiful women to ever grace the planet.It doesn't matter what taste you have in women,Russian women did grab my attention.Now lets move focus back to golf.
Missile factories that used to make warheads intended to wipe out my capitalism now make golf clubs for export in Europe and America. In small but ever increasing numbers, there are Russians learning the golf swing, pitch and putt.
After my tour of Moscow center with a guide on Sunday we went to the Russian Open M2M won by the English Lee Slattery.At the club I have met briefly Nigel the English professional and I asked him about life in Moscow. "Look, it's been difficult; it's been hard," he said. "I've got a wife and kids in UK. But it's also exciting. It's completely different out here".I knew what he was talking about because for the last 6 years I was in the same situation in Bulgaria.The first golf course build in Russia is Moscow Country Club, which is a Robert Trent Jones and his son Trent Jones Jr Design. They traveled to Moscow to present their plans and inspect sites. But in the stagnant years of Brezhnev's reign, little progress was made. There were many delays, including Brezhnev's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Jones Jr. finally signed a contract with the Russian Foreign Ministry in 1986, and the course opened seven years later. It is hard to believe that the golf course is 20 miles from the Kremlin. The course looks majestic, each hole weaving through a forest of white birch and pine. Its origins lie with the late billionaire businessman Armand Hammer, a former friend of Lenin and son of a founding member of the American Communist Party.
I may be a dreamer, but I am not the only one. I have met the young professionals from the Russian National Team and played with some of them. In 5 to 10 years time there will be a Russian professional competitive enough to win in Europe or the US PGA Tour.I think is a realistic goal and who knows I might be part of it, only time will tell. The Russian team will have very soon contact with the Australian way of playing golf. Australia produces the best players in the world. The Russian National Team will visit our golf academy in London very soon because they need advice from the best.
I asked Nikita from the National Team how many Russian golf professional there are.Nikita counted them on his fingers. He got a sponsor invitation in the Russian Open but he missed the cut. He was very excited at the possibility of working with Gary Edwin Golf Schools in London which will help them reach their goals as Tour Golf Professionals.
I played Forest Hills, The Links, Zavidovo PGA National Golf and the best was Tseleevo Golf Club designed by the great Jack Nicklaus where I want to take my boys for the “Matryoshka Golf Cup” in Moscow.
At Zavidovo PGA National I met with Alex Day which many of you will remember as my Director of Golf in Bulgaria.
The Russians are the most hospitable people in the world, and I have lived everywhere in the world, I should know. When it comes to golf the nature and character of Russians I felt is that they have to be good at whatever they do. It doesn’t matter where you are from. Viewed through the lens of golf, it’s obvious that we are none of us so very different, afterall.More high fives. More drinks.
With a free market comes,which I wasn't able to avoid, slow play. I couldn't help thinking that if Stalin had been running the tournament, the pace of play might have been better. Each nine holes took us almost three hours. You could have read a lot of The Brothers Karamazov during the waits between shots. I was playing OK but then it all started to catch up with me the parties until 3.00am, the Vodka, the Caviar, and the Samogon.
I went to Russia hoping to play like Ivan the Great; but I played like Ivan the Terrible. There’s no escape. Wherever you go, there you are chasing off your past golfing demons .I did win one tournament in best ball with a Russian professional as my partner we did shoot 10 under par,putting on a show for our amateurs who came to watch us, each of us making 5 birdies, the second placed Russian professional team finished at 3 under par.The artist in me forgot to mention that I did go to Bolshoi Theatre.I went to opera play "Carmen"( pre-arranged by my friend Gleb) while I was in Moscow.The performance was outstanding great accustics and the building is beautiful.They let you take pictures before the performance and take pictures of all of the beautiful craftsmenship.
On my last night in Russia, I was taken out to dinner by Gleb and Marina at Cafe Pushkin. I eat authentic Russian cuisine and cooking with stories told by our waiter from Napoleon to Ivan de Great. The food was breathtaking. The general sentiment, as far as I recall, was that Russia is great, Australia is great, vodka is great, and, of course, golf is great.
The golf in Russia has a long way to go before it will be the opium of the masses. But it's heading in the right direction. The Russians, one might say, are definitely coming.
In the words of Winston Churchill: "these people will never be beaten."


 

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