The Jack Nicklaus-designed Tseleevo Golf Polo Club, the only Nicklaus Design course open for play in Russia, played host to the Russian Challenge Cup for the second year in a row. Frenchman Alexandre Kaleka claimed his second European Tour title, winning the Challenge Cup and his share of 250,000 euro. The victory came after a thrilling battle in the final day of the tournament, in which Kaleka’s 2-under-par round of 70 was enough to edge Italy’s Alessandro Tadini and Chile’s Mark Tullo by one shot.
Tseleevo, located just outside Moscow, opened for play in 2003.
“The course is very nice,” said Tadini, who tied Tullo at 6-under 282. “I’ve been playing here for three years and I like it very much. This year the conditions were a bit different… but the course is always good.”
Kaleka began the day two shots off the lead held by Tadini and, on an intriguing day where the lead changed hands several times, he battled his way back from a double bogey at the 15th hole to claim his first title in three years, moving him from 12th in the Challenge Tour Rankings to fifth (he has since moved to fourth).
Afterwards, the Frenchman revealed an unlikely Russian ancestry which may have contributed to his comfort in the surroundings at Tseleevo.
“I have never met my grandparents but they came from Russia to France earlier last century so I like it here,” said Kaleka. “It’s a pity we are so far from Moscow because it’s a great city. I saw it two years ago but it has been a very good week this week.”
The Golden Bear also shares a love for Russia and its capital city, one of the largest cities in Europe. Russia spans 11 time zones and occupies a sixth of the land surface area of Earth, yet when Jack’s design at Tseleevo Golf & Polo Club opened in 2003, the stunning private layout became one of just three golf courses in the country. Today, there are 15. In contrast, the United States has close to 16,000 golf courses.
“If you look at Russia’s track record with developing world-class athletes, I have no doubt that they will succeed with golf,” Nicklaus said. “It’s exciting to be a part of that. One of the most gratifying aspects of my life now is designing in new and emerging markets, to introduce and help grow the game for future generations. That’s exciting.”
Nicklaus Design now has four golf courses under development in Russia.