Ask the 6 Storm Team: Onsite meteorologist helps keep golfers safe

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The Professional Golf Tour finished up Sunday at Fox Den Country Club. Hundreds of players, workers, volunteers and staff worked the whole week in preparation for the big event. It may surprise you to know that one of the most important jobs was that of the onsite meteorologist.

Mike Nelson travels thousands of miles a year with the PGA tour. You don’t see his name on the leaderboard and he doesn’t make big money, but his job can literally save hundreds of lives. As onsite meteorologist, Nelson’s forecasts, especially lightning forecasts are extremely important.

Nelson analyzes weather data behind the scenes in the clubhouse, making sure no unexpected storms pop up. His sensors can alert him to voltage increasing around the property, well before lightning strikes.

Mike Nelson
Mike Nelson

“When you have this many people on a property this size, you get people spread out. It takes time to clear the golf course. Knowing that lightning threat only increases the safety out here. It’s very important to stay up on it,” said Nelson.

Lightning in the area of the tournament is the number one concern for Nelson, but his forecasts can literally determine how officials might make changes.

“Not only important for safety reasons, but also for setting up the golf course. Make changes based on wind speed and direction. Might set it up a little different,” he said.

Players have enough to worry about, trying to get a 2-inch golf ball to go in a 4.5-inch cup. Knowing someone is watching the weather over them may make that putt just a bit easier.

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