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Liberty National Golf Club set to host THE 2019 NORTHERN TRUST
JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Two years after the Presidents Cup, Liberty National Golf Club is back in the spotlight again, ready to open its doors to another star-studded field, for THE NORTHERN TRUST, the premier event of the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup Playoffs. The stunning settings and picturesque surroundings have always set Liberty National apart and will provide another incredible backdrop for the club’s third PGA TOUR event. Not bad for a transformative reclamation project undertaken by founder Paul Fireman and his son, Dan, almost 20 years ago.
Prior to becoming what Rory McIlroy called “one of the best venues we play” on the PGA TOUR, the site of Liberty National spent a century as one of the most blighted areas on the East Coast, serving as a World War I ammunition dump, petroleum tank farm and junkyard.
These days, Liberty National is a home to those who love the game and its history. As a venue with a tradition of hosting the biggest events in the sport, fans of the game have continuously flocked here to take in the action and the stunning views of the Manhattan skyline, Statue of Liberty and Verrazano Bridge. Since opening on July 4, 2006, Liberty National hosted THE NORTHERN TRUST in 2009 and 2013 and the Presidents Cup in 2017. This year, Liberty National will welcome back the top names in golf from August 6-11 when the FedExCup Playoffs kick off with the highest stakes yet – a $9.25 million purse at THE NORTHERN TRUST, a $15 million pay day for the FedExCup champion and a bonus pool of $35 million are all up for grabs.
Phil Mickelson, a 44-time PGA TOUR winner and member of the club, has been extolling its atmosphere and unique place in golf for over a decade.
“This is the ideal club. I love it,” Mickelson said. “It’s right near Manhattan. The practice facilities are excellent, the course is in great shape and it really is a fun layout to play … It’s unlike any golf club in the world.”
Nestled along the banks of the Hudson River just 2,000 yards from the Statue of Liberty, Liberty National is the closest course to New York City and only a 15-minute ferry ride from Downtown Manhattan. It also might be the only course on the planet where you can arrive by boat, train, bus, car, bicycle or helicopter.
So, how did we get here?
The numbers are astounding: Over 14 years, the club’s construction required moving six million cubic feet of soil, bringing in 70,000 truckloads of sand, adding 5,000 trees and spending $300 million dollars to make it happen. The incredible vision and will of the Fireman family helped make it all possible.
If one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, Paul Fireman not only saw a treasure in the site of Liberty National, but also a chance to make an impact on the game he and his family loved. After building Reebok into a globally- and culturally-relevant brand, Paul – along with his son, Dan – were not deterred in their vision to create a golf course in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The very same place where Fireman’s grandparents arrived from Russia and Australia decades before.
“I absolutely loved the site,” Paul Fireman said. “The historical connections with the Statue of Liberty, being so close to the city, in full sightline of the Hudson River and New York Harbor. We plunged right into it. There were risks, and many people questioned the decision to take it on, but to me it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something iconic.” It would take years before the property was even suitable for designers Bob Cupp and Tom Kite to begin carving out the magnificent layout we see today. To cover the entire site’s toxicity and cap the land from the contamination underneath to begin building the golf course was a five-year process alone.
“What my father built here is something that all of us are extremely proud to be a part of,” Dan Fireman, Principal and President of Liberty National Golf Club, said. “The vision to see it all, the desire to make it happen, and the delicate touch showed throughout is inspiring. When I think about what used to be here versus what is here now, I’m still blown away.” Today, the course sits 50 feet above the previous land and offers striking views of the Statue of Liberty from 15 of its 18 holes.
“When you look off in the distance and it’s like, ‘Wow,’” Kite, a former U.S. Open champion and World Golf Hall of Fame member, said. “We have said many times that there are a lot of great golf courses in the world. There are some fantastic, but in terms of the ‘Wow’ factor, there’s nothing – there’s only one New York. There’s only one city like this, and to be able to build a golf course where you have the sight lines to Manhattan, to the Statue, to the Verrazano Bridge.”
Cupp, who passed away in 2016, always knew that this was a special project. A project that would be career-defining and transcendent.
“We had an amazing time. It was a career event, quite honestly,” Cupp said years ago. “It turned something that was previously horrendous into something useful … It’s more than just tees and greens. It’s about an accomplishment and it helps the planet.”
Liberty National hosted its first professional event three years after its opening, welcoming THE 2009 NORTHERN TRUST. The event went on to produce one of the most memorable tournaments on the PGA TOUR schedule that season, with Heath Slocum holing a 20-foot putt on the 72nd hole to win and escape a potential five-way playoff with Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington.
“This is a phenomenal golf course,” Padraig Harrington said. “It’s good enough for a major, a superb test that puts us right on the limit.”
THE NORTHERN TRUST returned four years later, producing an equally thrilling result and nearly becoming the site of a dramatic Tiger Woods comeback. After battling back spasms all week – including where he dropped to the turf after hitting his second shot on the 13th hole of the final round – Woods birdied the 16th and 17th holes to get within one shot of Adam Scott’s lead. But, his birdie putt to force a playoff on the 72nd hole came up a revolution short. Nevertheless, it marked another thrilling PGA TOUR event at Liberty National, where the players’ reviews matched the drama the course produced.
Being in the heart of the sports and entertainment capital of the world, with the most passionate fans around, THE NORTHERN TRUST at Liberty National will once again be a hot ticket come August.
“I love playing here,” Mickelson said. “I love playing in the metropolitan area, New York, New Jersey, it's just terrific, and the golf courses are incredible. But the people are really fun to play in front of. They are just fun. They are my favorite – it’s probably my favorite place to play.”
When the PGA TOUR’s top-125 golfers return to Liberty National this August, the pressure-packed drama will be unlike anything previously experienced at this event. With the change in the FedExCup Playoffs structure from four to three events, only 70 (compared to 100 previously) will advance to the next event. Every shot counts.
But, as the saying goes: “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”
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