Despite economic chaos and political paralysis, Venezuela’s beleaguered oil industry has still found time for one long-standing tradition: The charity golf tournament.
The country’s oil chamber, an industry group, and Chevron Corp., one of just a handful of American companies still allowed to do business in the South American country, are sponsoring the Dec. 7 event.
The Copa Chevron will take place at Maracaibo Country Club in the oil-rich state of Zulia, Venezuela’s Texas. According to a notice for the event, several prizes are up for grabs — in dollars, rather than the heavily devalued domestic currency — including $200 for first place (the equivalent of about 7.7 million bolivars) and $50 for the longest drive. The entrance fee is $15.
The tournament has been a social fixture for decades. Golf is also an established feature of life for many oil executives and expats in Venezuela. U.S. oil companies built country clubs throughout the country since the 1930s. The 18-hole, 6,812-yard course at Maracaibo Country Club was constructed in 1958, according to Golf Advisor website.
“Besides the pool at the club, there was nothing left to do but play golf or baseball in remote oil-producing areas,” recalls Alexis Medina, a Venezuelan who now runs Advanced Logging & Explosives, an oil services firm.
Golf in Venezuela has survived being labeled bourgeois by former President Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan Golf Federation’s website lists a full calendar of youth and amateur tournaments.
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Chevron has sponsored its namesake tournament for the past three years. Proceeds from the Dec. 7 contest will go to the Pediatric Hospital in Maracaibo, company spokesman Ray Fohr said. “We remain focused on our base business operations and supporting the more than 8,800 people who work with us and their families,” he said.