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Behind the Scenes of the BellSouth Classic

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Behind the BellSouth Classic
Nearly 2,000 volunteers. Over $700,000 for charity. At least 125,000 visitors to Gwinnett. These are just some of the amazing numbers that result from the largest annual sporting event in the Atlanta area, the BellSouth Classic.

With a nearly $16 million economic impact from the tournament, one can only imagine what it takes to put on a #show# like this. From preparing the course to coordinating transportation, we#ve got the inside scoop on what it takes to organize this event.

So get your tickets early, grab your walking shoes and get ready for an insider#s tour of the BellSouth Classic.

How the Classic Came to Be

According to Andrew Webber, manager of marketing and client services for the BellSouth Classic, the tournament was started in 1964 when a group of Atlanta businessmen decided they wanted a PGA Tour event in the Atlanta area. Taking matters into their own hands, the seven individuals purchased farmland in Cobb County, which is now the Atlanta Country Club.

After two long years of hard work, the Atlanta Country Club held a two-day pro-am to prove it could handle a golf event, and just one year later in 1967, the classic officially joined the PGA Tour. The first tournament was known as the Atlanta Golf Classic and Horse Show.

Held at Atlanta Country Club until 1996, the tournament moved to Sugarloaf Country Club, and its brand new course made its debut with the whole country watching as the club and course opened for business the week the tournament was aired on national television.

Spreading the Word

Preparing for the tournament is a year-long endeavor. With a few weeks of clean up and follow up from the previous year#s tournament (usually held at the end of March or early April), the time lapse from one year to the next is minimal. During May, the tournament staff meets with various committees to critique the previous year#s tournament. They discuss what worked, what didn#t, ways to improve or things to review for the future. And as soon as June of each year, the tournament#s marketing department gets busy with promotional materials to send to corporate sponsors and those interested in hospitality tents.

Getting There

With somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 visitors attending the tournament each day, just getting them there is a huge logistics challenge.

According to Webber, #When the tournament moved to Sugarloaf, there was a lot more than we had anticipated in terms of what we had to do to get things ready.#

This included purchasing land for parking lots. Land near the River Green office complex in Duluth has become the primary public parking lot. Including this purchased land, Gwinnett Place Mall offers its parking lots for tournament visitors. From these two massive areas, motorcoaches transport thousands of visitors to the tournament.

George#s Motorcoach has been the transportation company of the tournament for 15 years. According to Don George, owner and CEO, nearly 60 buses, seating 55 persons in each bus, run every five to 10 minutes on the Saturday and Sunday of the tournament.

#The volume builds up during the week,# says George. #We start with about 38 buses on Thursday and add more every day until the end of the week.# The transportation plan also includes ADA (American Disabilities Act) buses that transport guests in wheelchairs.

Working closely with the police department who manages the transportation for the tournament, George#s buses use the same radio system as the police to maintain close communications for keeping control of the traffic.

Now Entering Sugarloaf Country Club

Sugarloaf Country Club, located on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth, was once Sugarloaf Farms, a place used to breed award-winning cattle and Tennessee walking horses. Crescent Resources, the developer of Sugarloaf Cou