The FedExCup Playoffs are finally here. To prepare you for all three events, we’ve compiled 5 Things to Know about each venue. This week, THE NORTHERN TRUST visits Liberty National for the fourth time. The former landfill has become one of the world’s most scenic courses, offering vistas of the New York City skyline, as well as a history of dramatic finishes.
1. ONE MAN’S TRASH
Liberty National is known for its views but the site wasn’t always so scenic. The course is built on land that was once a collection of vacant warehouses sitting on contaminated land. It had been the home of a World War I ammunition dump, storage for corroded oil tanks and even an operations base for the Gambino crime family.
But Paul Fireman, the former chief executive of Reebok, fell in love with the site immediately. Besides the scenery, the land had further significance for his family. It is in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where his grandparents arrived from Russia and Australia decades before.
“I absolutely loved the site,” said Fireman, who was introduced to golf while caddying as a boy. “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 is the closest course to New York City, sitting on the shore of the Hudson River across from Lower Manhattan. It is so close to the Statue of Liberty that the Associated Press’ Doug Ferguson wrote, “she looks as if she’s holding one of those ‘Quiet, Please’ signs.”
2. IS ANOTHER MAN’S TREASURE
Tom Kite and Bob Cupp, who’d spent more than 15 years as the senior designer for Jack Nicklaus, first met in 1988 when they were both hired to redesign Baltimore Country Club’s West Course. It was the start of a fruitful partnership that collaborated on several courses, included Liberty National.
Kite first heard about the site in the same year he won the U.S. Open. At a corporate outing near Washington D.C., a businessman named Rusty Bayliss showed Kite aerial photographs of the land.
“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Kite said. “I went out and saw it. And I couldn’t wait to get to Bob and show him the site.”
Building Liberty National was no easy task, however.
The site had to be decontaminated before construction could begin. Plastic was put down, then covered by millions of tons of clay and fill.
“The first time we showed up here, it was a nightmare,” Cupp said. “We were pretty sure any travesty known to man was (committed) on this property.”
Today, the course sits 50 feet above the previous land, allowing it to offer views of the Statue of Liberty on 15 holes. All the elevation changes are manmade.
“When we first saw the property, it was dead flat. There was 2 feet of elevation change,” Kite said. “It was our job to be able to see something that could take place like this before it ever happened, and we were lucky to be able to do it.”
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 cost $300 million dollars.
Befitting its name, the course opened July 4, 2006.