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Legendary golfers draw fans to Greater Gwinnett Championship

Patrick Sugar, center, of Decatur is among a large crowd who cheers on professional golfers as they compete in the second round of the Greater Gwinnett Championship golf tournament at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth on Saturday. (Staff Photos: Brendan Sullivan)

Patrick Sugar, center, of Decatur is among a large crowd who cheers on professional golfers as they compete in the second round of the Greater Gwinnett Championship golf tournament at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth on Saturday. (Staff Photos: Brendan Sullivan)

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A large crowd makes their way down a soggy path to the 18th hole as they chase professional golfers competing in the second round of the Greater Gwinnett Championship golf tournament at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth on Saturday.

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Professional golfer Miguel A. Jimenez signs autographs for Zach Nozick, 13, and Ryan Danz, 13, after the completion of the second round of the Greater Gwinnett Championship golf tournament at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth Saturday. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

DULUTH — They lined their chairs up on a hill overlooking the eighth hole green.

With her two older daughters home from college, Tami Crewdson, along with her teenager and her mother wouldn’t let some rain keep them from enjoying a day outside watching a sport they love.

So the Crewdson crew packed ponchos and came out to the Greater Gwinnett Championship, giggling — when the “Hush” signs were down — as they playfully bet on who would make the longest drive or be the first to get to the hole.

“I grew up in a with a family that loved it,” the Sandy Springs woman said of keeping the tradition going with her daughters. “I’ve been going to the Masters (tournament) my whole life, so I remember when all these guys were playing on the PGA Tour.”

The Greater Gwinnett Championship is in its second year, hosting Champions Tour golfers at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth. While officials are expecting a large crowd today when the forecast calls for sunshine, many fans showed up Friday and Saturday despite the rain.

Crowds followed Hall of Famers like Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer. Miguel Angel Jimenez, who leads the field Saturday during his debut on the Champions Tour, also had a large following, and a charity challenge featuring Atlanta athletes John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Kevin Butler created buzz.

“There are so many golfers here who have had incredible careers,” said Stan Hall of the Gwinnett Sports Commission. “The die hard golf fans, they are going to come out here even if it’s rainy.”

Jim Hall and his son Evan followed Couples as he made his way along the course.

“It’s something (special) to do, watching a legendary guy play his game,” Jim Hall said. “It’s fun to do.”

Stan Hall said he isn’t sure how the weather will impact the turnout, which was expected to reach 40,000 for the entire event. The Easter holiday could also effect today’s attendance, he said, but added that tee times would allow people to attend church services, and the Easter bunny will be on hand to greet kids.

“We’ll be interested to see how it works out,” he said of the tournament, which brought an economic impact of $10 million last year, a study showed.

Bill Blackwell said he’d likely sneak out after Easter brunch to watch the conclusion of the tournament.

“I think it’s great,” he said, watching from the grandstands at the 18th green Saturday. “There’s a lot of economic impact for the county and its recognition, national publicity. It does good things for the charities (which receive donations). … Hopefully, it’ll be nice tomorrow.”