Abdul Aziz wanted to be the first to play the new Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point. It had, after all, been 52 years since the last public golf course was opened in New York City.
So Aziz, from Queens, was on the phone the minute tee times were first available for booking last month, and he scored the 7:40 a.m. spot for Wednesday’s long-anticipated opening of Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point.
“I wanted to be the first,” Aziz said as he stood on the tee box of the fourth hole.
About three hours after the first group teed off, Josh Rich from Manhattan one-upped Aziz, carding a hole-in-one on the 12th hole — the first hole-in-one of the course’s official opening, a 150-yard 8-iron.
“I saw it drop and didn’t see it after that, because it was kind of a blind shot,” said Rich, a 9-handicap who said it was his first hole-in-one after having played for 15 years. “I’m in shock. I’m still shaking. I’m still trembling.”
Told that course owner and proprietor Donald Trump had a hole-in-one on the 12th last year before the course opened, Rich said jokingly, “Well, I’m in the same company as Donald.”
Rich was part of another first on Wednesday. He was playing with Andrea Westerlind, the first woman to play during the course’s opening.
It was that kind of day at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point. The place was bustling with a full morning tee sheet filled with many players from New York City who have been anticipating the long-awaited opening.
“We think that the golf course will be a strong golf course, but a fair golf course and a fun golf course for the average golfer,” said course designer Jack Nicklaus.
“We don’t think it will be a particularly hard golf course as long as you keep the ball somewhat in play. The fairways are wide. The play will be dictated by the bunkers and where they are, much like a links golf course in Scotland or England.”
Mike Bonamassa, who lives in Queens and owns a plumbing company, grew up minutes away from the property the course now occupies.
“It hasn’t been anything since the ’60s, so to get out on the first day was kind of a must for me,” Bonamassa said. “I’ve been hearing about it since I was a kid. It has gone from a dump to something I’ve dreamed about. I’ve been waiting for this for years.”
Theo Mavromihalis grew up across the Whitestone Bridge in Queens and said he has watched the property in various stages of disrepair since he was a kid.
“We used to come out here as kids with BB guns and shoot rats,” Mavromihalis said. “The people here in The Bronx and Queens don’t yet realize what they have here. There has been a lot of resistance in community board meetings that this was a big waste of the city’s money and that it’s not worth it.
“They don’t realize the greater good this will bring to the community and how a golf course can open up golden doors. Ten years from now, those who opposed this are going to realize how this will help revitalize The Bronx.”
Jim Carriero, a fellow attorney and playing partner of Mavromihalis, is also from Queens and said he has been “eagerly anticipating this to be finished after seeing it as a dump for so many years.”
“Every time I drove over the Whitestone Bridge, I’d look down and see, ‘Oh, they have another hole finished,’ or, ‘Oh, they have another fairway done,’” Carriero said.
Eamon Donnelly, a New York bar owner playing with three fellow Irishmen, said the links style of the course reminds him of playing at home in Ireland “with the rolling hills, and mounds and hills in the fairways.”
He called the price to play, which is significantly more than the other city courses, “worth it, because quality is worth it.”
Aiden Welsh, another of the Irish foursome, said the location is one of the biggest draws.
“I think it took 20 minutes to get here this morning — in traffic,” Welsh said.
Tony Macari, a developer of concession and architecture who works with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, said he has been working on this project since 2001 and “got emotional” seeing the first group tee off.
“It’s almost surreal to see this come to fruition after all these years,” Macari said. “This project has had a couple of lives, but it’s never gone away. It’s an historic day … a long time coming.”
The Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course has also earned top-reviews from industry media and organizations. Consider these sparkling accolades, all earned prior to the course’s official April 1 opening to the public: Golf.com named the course No. 10 on its list of the Top 10 Municipal Courses; Golf Inc. gave it third-place recognition in the magazine’s 2014 “Development of the Year” contest; it was a top-10 in Golf Digest’s annual Best New Courses list; the American Society of Golf Course Architects Design Excellence Recognition Program awarded the course one of 12 “Design Excellence” awards for 2014; the layout received recognition by the Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects as one of 30 recipients of the organization’s 2014 Design Awards and the Environmental Sustainability Honor and the Award of Excellence in the Resort and Entertainment Category.
Nicklaus was on the original design team 14 years ago when the plan was to build 27 holes. Donald Trump joined the project as operator and contractor in 2011, catalyzing the project’s completion.
“Trump pushed the project to completion a year sooner than it would have been otherwise,” Nicklaus said. “I was pleased to watch him get that done.”
“I think it’s great. I’m very excited about the golf course. It took long enough to build it—so it ought to be pretty good,” Nicklaus said.
Offering views of the Manhattan skyline, Ferry Point is the only championship-quality golf course in The Big Apple, and officials project that it will host 35,000 rounds in its first year.
Parts: New York Post