After months of preparation, Greater Gwinnett Championship set to begin

DULUTH -- The first part of the week has been "absolutely wonderful" at the Greater Gwinnett Championship, and the holes that really count haven't been played yet.

That was the sentiment Thursday afternoon from Stan Hall, executive director of the Gwinnett Sports Commission and this week's tournament at TPC Sugarloaf following Pro-Ams and pratice rounds. Hall said the quality field of golfers at the Champions Tour event has made seven or eight out-of-town tournament directors envious.

"I've gone through every emotion, not knowing what to expect," Hall said. "I can tell you my overall emotion is absolute satisfaction and appreciation for what the golf fans will see. I don't think anybody will dispute it's a quality event." The tournament begins at 11:05 a.m. on Friday, the first pro tour event TPC Sugarloaf has hosted since 2008.

Leading up the event, several golfers have noted the course's rolling hills and elevation changes and said it was a memorable stop for them when it was the AT&T or Bellsouth Classic for 12 years on the PGA Tour.

Friday's weather forecast from the National Weather Service said there is a 100 percent chance of rain; showers and thunderstorms are expected mainly before 3 p.m. The high temperature is forecast to be near 65 degrees.

About a half to three quarters of an inch of rain is possible, the forecast said, and winds are expected to be 10 to 15 m.p.h, but could gust to 25 m.p.h. in the afternoon. The weather on Saturday and Sunday is expected to be partly cloudy and sunny with temperatures in the high 60s.

Hall said Champions Tour officials and meterologists have told him that play would continue through the rain, unless there is a torrential downpour or lightning. The tee times make it advantageous to move them back in the day or to Saturday, if needed, Hall said.

Some notable names in the field include Gwinnett native James Mason, a Duluth grad, three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin, 1995 PGA Championship winner Steve Elkington, 1986 PGA Championship winner and Wheeler grad Bob Tway and two-time U.S. Open champion and longtime ESPN golf analyst Andy North.

Sugarloaf course record-holder Duffy Waldorf is also in the field. Waldorf shares the record of 63 with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Champions Tour money leader Bernhard Langer is also in the field a week after a top 25 finish at the Masters.

"One after the other you've watched your whole life," Hall said.

All parking is at the Gwinnett Arena and Hall said shuttle buses will transport fans to the course every 10 minutes. Cellphones are allowed, but must be on silent mode on the golf course, Hall said.