Fans of the Northern Trust golf tournament are excited to be outdoors and…

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Fans of the Northern Trust golf tournament are excited to be outdoors and…

JERSEY CITY – Chris Molicki has just started playing golf, so he came from Middletown to watch his first PGA Tour event.
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Andy Goodelle came to North Jersey with his wife and two children from New York State as part of their “summer vacation.”

And Jeff Miller traveled across the country, from Idaho, because attending a major tournament in the metropolitan area was on his “bucket list.”

Fans came from almost everywhere, in light of the pandemic, to watch Thursday’s opening round of The Northern Trust, the first leg of the three-tournament FedExCup Playoffs.

“We thought we would either play today or come here because it’s close enough – and I’m glad I came,” said Molicki.

There were few masks outside and many smiles in the morning at Liberty National Golf Club, where the rain stopped about an hour before the first tee time, and the course offers fantastic views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline.

The fact that the metropolitan area has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic was no deterrent to these fans. Nor was there any mandate to wear a mask indoors unless while eating or drinking.

“We were thrilled to be able to open our gates to the community and offer a day out with friends and family,” Northern Trust Executive Director Julie Tyson said Thursday. “Watching fans all over the course felt overwhelmingly positive and we hope people stay safe while enjoying the tournament.”

“The Northern Trust is delighted to be an outlet for people looking to rejoin events,” Northern Trust Executive Director Julie Tyson said Thursday. “It has been a universal experience to have spent the past year and a half isolating, quarantining and protecting our families.”

Count Molicki among the people who recently picked up the game of golf as it provided the best opportunity to practice a sport in the face of COVID-19. He was introduced to the game through his brothers, Ryan and Sean.

“You really can’t do anything else,” said Molicki, 29, as he stood outside the ropes at the 18th green with friends. “It was something I was always interested in, but I felt like it was hard to pick up because it’s a steep learning curve. But this was really the only way to socially and safely interact with people.”

Count Miller to those who reduced his disability from a 5 to below a 2 during the pandemic as outdoor activities have been on the rise over the past 18 months. He also made his first visit to a major golf tournament.

“It’s kind of a bucket list thing,” said Miller, 41, a teacher who sat in the bleachers over the first tee and planned to return to Liberty National Friday and Saturday before returning home. “I have a friend who lives in Brooklyn, so we stay in his apartment there.”

Count the Goodelle clan among those who wanted to attend the US Open Championship in New York last year, but the pandemic denied fans the trip to the famous Winged Foot in Mamaroneck. So Liberty National was the second best option for the New Hartford foursome.

“We wanted to come to a professional tournament, this is the closest to us, and it fits our summer vacation,” says Andy Goodelle, a teacher. “So it worked.”

“It’s fantastic,” said Nicole Goodelle, also a teacher. “And there’s so much in this area.”

Meanwhile, their children, Tommy and Natalie, have mixed feelings about golf. Although Tommie is an experienced youth golfer and loves the sport – “I see golf and I just really want to play” – with older sister Natalie, not so much.

“I don’t really hate anything, but golf is one of the things I hate,” said Natalie, 14. “But today has been very peaceful. I’ve really enjoyed today so far.”

Rob Shuster and his adult sons, Brian and Brett, came from New York City and enjoyed the day. Rob is a big fan of the sport.

“I enjoy golf on television a lot and I wanted to see it up close because on TV you get a different perspective than being live,” says Shuster, who lives in Queens. “I just want to see great golfers up close.”

Lyle Logan Jr. came from Chicago and paid particular attention to the players during practice. He plays college basketball at Suffolk University in Boston and respects what it takes to prepare to play the game.

As he looked out over the practice green with his father, Logan said, “It’s the dedication the players have to have to be as good as they are.”

Against the pandemic, Americans and beyond had to be good and wear masks while being confined more indoors. Against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline, fans of Liberty National were able to walk out without a mask and smile.

“The pandemic has been tough for everyone, but I’m happy to be here because I’m free,” Andy Goodelle said. “I feel like I can be myself in this location. We are doing things outside.”

Greg Mattura is a sports reporter for NorthJersey.com. Sign up today for full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team. If you want to get the latest news straight to your phone, Sign up for our newsletter and download our app.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @gregmattura

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