Senior PGA Championship tree planting project

PGA teams with Nature Conservancy, Lexmark, Monsanto, St. Louis County Parks

BALLWIN, Mo. -- Thirty volunteers from Greater St. Louis grabbed a shovel, wiped the sweat from their brows on a humid Missouri Sunday and gave something back that generations will value decades from now. Such was the teamwork to help restore native forests emanating from a partnership between The PGA of America, Lexmark International Inc., The Nature Conservancy Missouri, The Monsanto Company and St. Louis County Parks.

Together, the participants planted more than 200 native bottomland trees and shrubs to offset the impact of printing and paper products generated for the 74th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, May 21-26, at Bellerive Country Club. The environmental project is part of The PGA of America's commitment to benefit the host communities that support its Championships. The PGA and Lexmark partnered for a similar event prior to the 2012 Ryder Cup near Chicago, by planting 50 large trees. The teamwork will continue in August prior to the 95th PGA Championship in Rochester, N.Y.

"This project is especially important to us because the plantings are alongside a freshwater stream, which ultimately flows into the Meramec River," said Betsy LePoidevin, associate director of philanthropy for The Nature Conservancy Missouri. "It's benefiting the health of an entire community. It's not just about nature for nature's sake. It's about people getting fresh drinking water. It's about people getting educated about the environment that affects them. This simply is not just a tree planting, or The Nature Conservancy would not be a part of it. It goes far beyond that, to benefit an entire community."

The tree planting featured Gateway PGA Section President Joe Schwent of St. Charles, Mo., representing the 324 members of the Section. Schwent was joined by his wife, Laura, in the volunteer corps. "I was honored to be part of this event; nothing but good things going on all day," said Schwent. "This is one great example to how we all can give something back to the environment, the community."

The roots of the new trees in Queeny Park serve as a filtering system for ground water, and help prevent a clogging of the banks. "This tiny stream system will lead into the Meramec River and provide 250,000 individuals with drinking water in St. Louis County. It's a small part, but you have to start somewhere. It will magnify positive effects for so many."

Tom Ott of Spanish Lake, Mo., acting director of St. Louis County Parks, said the partnership helps enhance the ongoing campaign to benefit what he calls "one of our jewels of the country." Edgar M. Queeny Park opened in 1974 and is named after the famed industrial-conservationist Edgar Monsanto Queeny. It is a 570-acre site and one of 70 similar sites encompassing 12,700 acres that are managed by St. Louis County Parks.

"It is great to see this partnership develop and help those who want to make the most of this park and many more like this," said Ott. "The trees and shrubs planted today will help us eradicate bush honeysuckle, which grows like wildfire and doesn't give anything else below a chance to grow under a tree canopy."

The volunteers ranged in age from 9 to over 50, and were guided on proper planting methods by Angie Webber of Crestwood, Mo., community conservation planner for the Missouri Department of Conservation. "An event like this is so important today, considering the limited resources that state and governments are able to supply," said Webber. "It is so important for volunteer support."

Lexmark International, headquartered in Lexington, Ky., is the Official Printing Technology Provider of The PGA of America. Lexmark also is a founding member of The Nature Conservancy's Corporate Sustainability Council.

"We had a great day and some outstanding support from those in the St. Louis area," said Lee Ann Disponett, Lexmark's global sustainability analyst. "We are encouraged by the effort being demonstrated in all host communities, beginning near Chicago last fall during the Ryder Cup and here. The Boys and Girls Club of America helped form our team prior to the Ryder Cup, and it was fun to see some youngsters on the team today. It all sets a great example."

About The PGA of AmericaSince its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has maintained a twofold mission: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, The PGA enables its professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion dollar golf industry. By creating and delivering world-class championships and innovative programs, The PGA of America elevates the public's interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. As The PGA nears its centennial, the PGA brand represents the very best in golf.