PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Well before dawn on Thursday, Stewart Williams attended an impromptu discussion in a small room on the second floor of the Oak Hill Country Club near the U.S. northern border. That night brought cool temperatures, clear skies and a gentle breeze, but that was the problem.
Frost was thickening on the golf course, and with less than two hours until the PGA Championship was scheduled to start, the tournament’s top officials needed to know when the frost would thaw. At the moment, one of the world’s most prestigious golf tournaments is shaped not by the athletic geniuses of Rahm, Koepka and McIlroy, but by the intuition and data of the seldom-golfed meteorologists of High Point, North Carolina. It will be. .
By mid-morning, the competition had finally begun and Williams was pondering the next danger. It was a front line that threatened to flood the course. during Saturday’s third round.
“Nobody paid attention to the rain until the frost,” he mused in the sunshine.
But few sports focus as much on the weather as golf, and few rely more on meteorologists to go to venues and put together pinpoint forecasts. Local TV stations and weather apps may offer weather forecasts for large areas. Professionals like Williams, who have spent the better part of 30 years around the golf course, are building a vision for an area just a few square miles away.
At a popular event like the PGA Championship, his predictions may not affect the tournament as much as the rulebook, but they do affect course agronomy and pin placement, telecast preparation and emergency planning. will give Organizers often point out that evacuations take much longer than other locations due to the relatively small number of shelters on the 350-acre site.
“Even without a rocket scientist, you can tell it’s getting closer by looking at the red line that spans about 400 miles north and south,” said Sellers-Shy, CBS’ chief golf producer. A weather map in the bank of production monitors. “But their skill and expertise literally know exactly how far it is and when it will arrive and when the horn will go off, probably to within five minutes.”
Shai plans to use the weather forecast to plan a break in play—whether or not someone is trying to escape the rough at Oak Hill—there’s still airtime—but PGA of America’s chief championship leader Officer Kelly Haig, a man of desperate desire to know when the frost is thawed, relies on them to set up the course, and the tees and holes to accommodate the conditions throughout the 72-hole tournament. Changing the way we think about location.
“You can hardly run a spectator championship or a real golf event without them,” Haig said. His desk in Oak Hill was essentially a pat away from Mr. Williams’ desk, where the forecaster would switch between maps, models, and maps on his laptop screen. chart.
Next to the outdoor wading pool, a battery-powered tower built by Williams towers over an electrification that could provide a little more warning before lightning strikes, the biggest concern in sprawling golf tournaments. had detected. An anemometer rotated at the top.
Golf executives have yet to find a convenient venue that guarantees eternally sublime conditions, the tournament’s history is riddled with turmoil, and some experts fear that climate change will lead to and confusion will become more common. Last year’s Players Championship, like this year’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California, ended a day behind due to bad weather in Florida. The Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia in April avoided a Monday finish for the first time since 1983, but had to push the end of the third round and the entire fourth round to Sunday. And thunderstorms hit the St. Louis area Friday’s game at the 2018 PGA Championship. The following year, six people were injured by lightning strikes at a tournament in Atlanta, where rapidly developing thunderstorms are a trademark of the summer.
The Oak Hill Country Club outside of Rochester has a perfectly predictable weather forecast, especially in May when the weather patterns in the area are variable. The nearby Great Lakes can bring in moisture and unusual winds, further complicating the puzzle. Williams covered the 2013 PGA Championship at the club, which has been an invaluable experience since the tournament took place in August.
For this year’s event, he began scrutinizing weather trends in the region about a month ago, noting which forecast models seemed more accurate than others in the area. bottom. He also considered historical trends.
DTN vice president Lenny Vandewieg said: “I’m always trying to understand how data sources behave on the site I’m on, so I can understand trends and biases that can help me change the way I forecast. I hired Williams, PGA Tour, The LPGA, a weather company affiliated with the PGA of America (This is not necessarily a private sector effort. The UK National Weather Service, which contracts with The R&A, provides forecasters to the British Open.)
Williams and Vandewage said the influx of data will help, especially with technology that has advanced rapidly in recent decades and models that provide hourly forecasts. They argue that in an era of easy access to weather data, the human element is perhaps more important than ever.
“For those of us who are meteorologists, I would look at this model and then maybe another model, which is further east and could all get there sooner,” Williams said. Sitting next to Wage, he spoke as he weighed the approaching storm system. “That’s when you start using your instincts.”
The number of Official Predictions published daily varies by tournament, but players and caddies pay close attention to them when they arrive in their inboxes and posted on the 1st and 10th tees. Some approach Williams on a regular basis for more specific details over the next few days, and the course director is always asking for predicted evapotranspiration, or how much moisture will be coming out of the grass and soil. I am looking to see if I can get out. Williams said Davis Love III liked to ask what to expect on a fishing trip.
“You can’t help but look at the information they give you,” said two-time major champion Colin Morikawa, who thought nearly every player has two or three weather apps. , said.
“We are looking at everything,” he said. “I think you have to take everything into consideration.”
Others, like Haig, try to avoid mass forecasts. Whatever Williams predicts will largely guide their thinking, they say.
“They’re professionals. That’s what they do week after week, and they’re very good at it,” Haig said. “They definitely have better tech gadgets than any app I have.”
The forecast for melting frost was perfect.