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PGA TOUR meteorologist focuses on wind speeds, lightning strikes

TPC Sawgrass presents unique challenges for tournament forecasters

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla – If golf carts and caddies are essential to a golfer's games, a good weather forecast is next on the list. News4Jax got an inside look into what it takes to craft the most accurate and precise forecast for one the nation's largest golf tournaments.

As we all know too well, forecasting Northeast Florida's weather can be tricky especially during this time of the year as we transition from an oftentimes stormy spring into a steamy summer.

We caught up with Stewart Williams, a DTN meteorologist, who's sole job is to watch the skies at the TPC, so golfers and onlookers aren't surprised by those oh'so familiar sudden shifts in our weather.

"Weather has huge impacts on what's going to happen at the golf tournament," said Stewart.

Williams may not be seen on the greens, but some consider him to be the most important person on the tour. 

His day starts at 5:30 each morning as he pinpoints exactly how the weather may impact the day's game. And after spending more than 20-years on the PGA tour William's know exactly what threats to watch out for.

"Lightning is the number one concern on the PGA tour. So we use radar, lightning detection, we actually have an electric field mill onsite," said Williams. 

The field mill can detect lightning strikes within a 15 to 20 miles radius of the Sawgrass course. And with one call over the radio, William's predictions could change the playing schedule for the rest of the day.

While a storm may sends golfers and watchers indoors, our daily sea breezes change the how the game is played.

"If it's a strong wind at the player's face when they tee off, they are going to move those holes up so they play a little shorter. Obviously, if it is coming from behind them they are going to move it back, so it plays longer," said Stewart. 

Rain chances, wind direction and speed are all apart of the William's morning and afternoon forecasts. 

It's a job he does week after week in different cities as the tour takes him to different climates across the country. But this year's trip to Ponte Vedra, may be feel more like a vacation than work, for Williams.

"The first half of this week has almost been as good as it gets," said Williams

Fingers are crossed that Mother Nature's kindness to the TPC continues for the remainder of the tournament.