CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For over 25 years now, Stewart Williams’ job has been to make sure the golfers and fans of the PGA Tour stay safe when the weather is about to turn.
“The golden rule for us is we try to give 30 minutes in advance to give plenty of time to get people out of there," tells Williams.
So when it comes to weather, Williams has truly seen it all over the years.
“I’ve dealt with hurricanes, tornadoes, severe weather, snow at a couple of tournaments, you name it. Fog, high winds, it all has an impact at the tournament."
He even has a weather studio on the go with him.
“I carry two laptop computers, you know, to have all the computer models to make my own forecast,” he explained.
He has doppler radar, just like we do here at the station, assessing the nearest radar site. The Lightning Detection Network also has a neat tool called an Electric Field Mill.
“Well that will be our first line of defense and that could give us the extra 10 minutes we wouldn't have had,” he said.
This tool measures the electrical charge to the atmosphere. When a storm hasn’t produced lightning yet, this can give a head start hint that it could.
“Using all that technology together, I can give the tour officials and tournament officials hey I see a rain shower or storm coming," he said.
The PGA Tour has a meteorologist on-site for every tournament to answer those pertinent weather questions.
“When is it going to get it here, when is it going to be dangerous on the course, so it gives them a good idea when to stop play," said Williams.
That happened earlier this week: the tournament stopped play both on Monday and Tuesday due to storms.
But being a meteorologist on tour is not all about storms. The wind forecast will control where they place the holes or tee box each day for the tournament.
"If you have a strong wind at the players face when he is teeing off they may move that box shorter," Williams said.
He also went on to explain that if there is a strong cross wind they could move the hole on the green depending. They always want to make the holes challenging but not impossible due to the weather conditions. And on rainy days, they will pick a hole location on the higher portion of the green. That way it will be the last place to puddle up.
After Charlotte, Williams will be off for a few weeks before heading to the Senior PGA Tour in Tulsa, Oklahoma, then Hartford, Connecticut, and then over to the Quad Cities area of Illinois.