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Friendly Battle at Army Navy Club
by Anna Gawel
The Army Navy Country Club has a history of battle: In the summer of 1861, with a victorious Confederate Army encamped only a few miles away, President Abraham Lincoln set about defending the nation’s capital, and in the next four years, he transformed D.C. into “the most heavily fortified city in the nation.”
Commanding the highest ground of all the forts on the Virginia side was Fort Richardson, the site of what would eventually become part of the Army Navy Country Club, which today serves as a private, member-owned recreation facility largely for U.S. military officers.
Photos: Nurzhan Aitmakhanov
From left: Ambassador of the European Union João Vale de Almeida, Ambassador of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov, and Representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington Jason Yuan attend the first annual Friendly Golf Tournament held at the Army Navy Club and organized by the Embassy of Kazakhstan.
Recently though, the Army Navy Club was the site of a very different battle, one with an international dimension.
On June 8, ambassadors from Washington and the United Nations joined a U.S. team to compete in the first annual Friendly Golf Tournament at the Army Navy Club.
Ambassador of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov and Washington Diplomat publisher Victor Shiblie, with the support of U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall, hosted the intimate and lively golf tournament in Fairfax, Va.
With locations in Fairfax and Arlington, the Army Navy Club often serves as a respite for U.S. presidents such as Bill Clinton, who liked to escape the stresses of office with a round of golf just across the Memorial Bridge. Other presidents such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have also played at the club.
From left: Ambassador of Papua New Guinea to U.N. Robert Guba Aisi, British Ambassador to the U.N. Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Ambassador of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov, Ambassador of Finland to the U.N. Jarmo Viinanen, and Ambassador of Palau to the U.N. Stuart Beck represented the United Nations team at the inaugural Friendly Golf Tournament.
But on a recent sunny June day, the prestigious country club played host to a group of foreign diplomats, some of whom trekked much further than just across the Memorial Bridge to participate in the inaugural Friendly Golf Tournament.
The U.N. team included ambassadors the United Kingdom, Finland, Pakistan, Palau and Papua New Guinea — who drove down to D.C. from New York to compete in this tournament. They were accompanied by Aitimova Byrganym, the Kazakh ambassador to the United Nations. Lady Lyall Grant, wife of the British ambassador, also played with the women’s team, as did the Finish ambassador’s wife, Irmeli Viinanen.
The D.C. team was led by the Kazakh Ambassador Idrissov, who was joined by the ambassadors of South Korea, the European Union and the Taiwanese representative. The U.S. team was made up of a doctor, a former congressman and others from the local community.
In his remarks, Victor Shiblie welcomed guests to Washington and praised Ambassador Idrissov. “I’ve been working with this community for 17 years and I have often seen individual ambassadors who, despite not having the largest embassy or the most influential embassy in this town, become the most effective representatives because of the initiative of one ambassador,” he said. “And Erlan is one of those ambassadors who often initiates creative events like this tournament.”
The tournament culminated in an awards ceremony and a dinner of salmon and steak. In typical Kazakh tradition, the dinner was punctuated by several toasts featuring the popular Snow Queen Kazakh vodka, which is produced from organic wheat and spring water from the foothills of the Himalayas.
From left: CEO of Vox Frontera Greg Schmidt, former Congressman and lobbyist Marty Russo, cardiologist Dr. Robert Marshall, Ambassador of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov, President of Bond Associates James Bond, Washington Diplomat Publisher Victor Shiblie, and George Zaidan of the Huffington Post represented Team USA in the Friendly Golf Tournament.
Protocol Chief Capricia Marshall — whose husband Robert, a local cardiologist, also participated in the tournament — fêted all the ambassadors “because they play such an important role in representing their country.” Ambassador Idrissov, in good spirits, gave several toasts as well — one honoring his “little sister” counterpart at the U.N., and another toasting all the women in the room.
Former Congressman Marty Russo took the prize for the longest drive, while Finnish U.N. Ambassador Larmo Vinanen won for being closest to the pin, and renowned tennis coach Kathy Kemper took the top prize as the ladies individual winner.
Photo: Victor Shiblie
Ambassador of the European Union João Vale de Almeida.
But there were no losers in the match. Each team walked away with an impressive Wedgewood golf trophy provided by the Embassy of Kazakhstan. The D.C. team won the first place trophy while the U.S. and U.N. teams won second and third place trophies, respectively.
British Ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant thanked the hosts for a wonderful event and offered an invitation and challenge for next year, saying “since it seems that home field advantage is a big help, I want to invite all of you to come to New York for a second tournament next year. Next year we promise to deliver the [UN] Secretary General [Ban ki-Moon] if the team from Washington, D.C. promises to deliver the U.S. President.”
About the Author
Anna Gawel is managing editor for The Washington Diplomat and a columnist for the Diplomatic Pouch.