Liberty's time to shine
With a Presidents Cup and other key PGA TOUR events on the horizon, Liberty National prepares for the spotlight
August 26, 2014
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
If you ever visit Liberty National Golf Club, then you'll get an up-close view of the Statue of Liberty. It's visible from most of the course and stands just 1,000 yards from the 18th hole, offering one of the most unique settings in all of golf.
"Unlike any course in the world," said Phil Mickelson.
It's certainly a fitting site for The Presidents Cup, which Liberty National will host in 2017. The event pits an International group of players against the best that America has to offer, a proper competition in the shadow of Lady Liberty and the nearby Ellis Island.
"Ten percent of the entire U.S. population lives within 30 miles of us," said Dan Fireman, co-founder of Liberty National with his father Paul. "We have a very diverse population and I think it will make it quite interesting when we have this event."
The course was awarded The Presidents Cup 2017 by PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem during a ceremony at Liberty National on Tuesday morning. It's part of a 25-year partnership with the TOUR, in which the course will host up to 10 events at the scenic venue on the banks of the Hudson River.
Liberty National has already hosted the 2009 and 2013 Barclays, the leadoff event in the FedExCup Playoffs. The course, which opened on July 4, 2006, will join the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, TPC Harding Park and Muirfield Village Golf Club as the only U.S. courses to host the competition. The 2015 event will be played in South Korea.
"Liberty National has been a great venue for two previous playings of The Barclays, and we are all thrilled that this club will be a regular fixture on the PGA TOUR schedule for many years to come," Finchem said. "This is a golf course that our players, fans and millions of television viewers love."
Not only does Liberty National offer sweeping and spectacular views of the New York City skyline, it is also a testament to American ingenuity as course designers Tom Kite and Bob Cupp created a masterpiece on top of a landfill on the Jersey shore.
Roads had to be relocated, warehouses demolished and miles of retaining walls built to help the course designers reclaim the property and create a championship course that offers views of the Statue of Liberty on nearly every hole.
Liberty National will host The Presidents Cup 2017
Dan Fireman called the project an "obsession" for him and his father. Paul Fireman is the former CEO of Reebok who is now chairman of Fireman Capital Partners. Dan Fireman is managing partner of Fireman Capital Partners.
"No question that the property had a lot of obstacles to build this golf course," Dan Fireman said. "Any sort of normal person trying to build a course for profit would not have undertaken this project. But for my father and I, it was not about making a profit, it was about giving back to the game.
"We wanted to take advantage of the views of the city, as well as create something that would stand up to a PGA TOUR event. We talked about the future and where the golf course would be one day."
After Heath Slocum won The Barclays in 2009, making birdie on the final hole to edge Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington, the Firemans worked closely with the PGA TOUR to fine-tune the property for future events. Adam Scott came from six shots off the pace last year to win the second Barclays at Liberty National.
"It wasn't easy to do," Fireman said. "But these guys really mentored us. They appreciated our willingness to be flexible. We appreciated them working with us and being patient.
"It's been 5 or 6 years now, but it feels like we've had a partnership for 20 years already."
Dan Fireman sees a big future for The Presidents Cup 2017. He plans to have concerts nightly during competition week at Liberty State Park and would love to see events held at other nearby landmarks like Ellis Island, where more than 12 million immigrants came into the United States.
"In many respects, this is going to be a kickoff point for The Presidents Cup," Dan Fireman said. "The TOUR, the Fireman family is really going after this to build it as the biggest event yet -- and not just the competition and the teams.
Another element of the announcement on Tuesday was the $5 million, five-year commitment the Firemans made to The First Tee. Half of that total is earmarked for The First Tee facilities in the New York/New Jersey area.
"Golf is all about giving back," Dan Fireman said. "I've played the game for over 30 years. My father taught me. His father taught him. I am teaching my children. The game teaches you about integrity, sportsmanship and truly giving back to the next generation.
"This donation is not only a symbol of our wanting to give back, it's a case of putting your money where your mouth is."