Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 25 No. 213
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Weekend Plans With Liberty National Managing Dir Lee Smith

Smith earlier this week spoke with PGA Tour player Tony Finau to tout the course's upcoming events
Photo: TERRI DIAMOND

Liberty National Managing Dir LEE SMITH joined the prestigious New Jersey golf course about 20 months ago, shortly after it played host to the ’17 Presidents Cup. One thing that jumped out to him early in his tenure? Improving the experience for junior golfers at the course’s annual American Junior Golf Association event. Smith over the weekend is putting the final touches on the course ahead of next week’s Polo Golf Junior Classic, where the young hitters will experience some PGA Tour-like amenities as Liberty National also prepares to host the Northern Trust in August. Smith caught up with THE DAILY earlier this week to dish on preparing for a junior and PGA Tour event at the same time, and how he decompresses on a weekend to himself.

IMPROVING THE JUNIOR EVENT: It’s been a long time in the making. Once we signed a long-term agreement with the PGA Tour, our next thoughts were then to really approach every other level of the highest end of golf. We’ve hosted a junior event for a longtime, but for awhile the tournament was ranked lower than we would have liked. We approached the AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) to see if there was anything that we could do to improve it. We were able to change it into a unique match play format, the only one of its kind on their Tour.

LAYING THE GROUNDWORK: This weekend is all about preparation. We’ve done a lot in advance and we really want to create that PGA Tour-level of experience. We’ve built some hospitality venues for the juniors similar to Tour pros -- that includes candy displays, video games and ping pong. Then we also have a press-room-like area for them to take pictures and do some different things with their families. We’ll be putting the final touches on that in the clubhouse, as well as marking the golf course -- prepping the greens, roping off practice areas and putting signage out. We started build out for the Northern Trust about six weeks ago so there’s an advantage there. Obviously, there won’t be 20,000 people walking around next week. But I’m hoping the match play will provide some pinnacle moments on different holes as opposed to just turning your score card in after a day of stroke play. From a personal standpoint, I’ll probably be off Sunday to recharge the batteries right before we host the kids, but Friday and Saturday are about preparation.

IN THE MEANTIME: I’m a great nap-taker to be quite honest. After working and talking to people all day 5-6 days a week I certainly like to shut it down over the weekend. But in all seriousness, I moved to Jersey City from Las Vegas about 20 months ago and there are similarities of what’s available to you -- obviously on a much different scale. On weekends in my free time, I just like to walk around, enjoy some street pizza, do some shopping and take in a show. Mostly relaxing more than anything.