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How did you first get involved in golf?
I joined Ubimet (a global business) in Vienna as Head of Meteorology in 2014 and transferred to Australia in 2017 where we developed this product called the weather cockpit which was really developed for golf which has always been a part of my life, but I have to admit, I'm not a great golfer, myself.
What does your day-to-day look like working in weather?
Basically, I oversee all aspects of the business here in Australia, but for the most part it really boils down to meteorology, customer service, and IT. Some calls I get are much more urgent than others e.g. when a site is experiencing really severe weather.
How does your weather software help golf businesses in Australia?
We provide services to golf courses all around Australia. We also work with Golf Australia, the PGA and the WPGA. When we started to launch our Weather Cockpit, we were approaching golf clubs and found that there was a real need for the weather software because a lot of the golf clubs were still using manual observation. Which isn’t really an accurate method because the reality is golfers are quite exposed to the elements when out on the golf course.
Basically as soon as lightning is detected within a certain distance of the course our system sends out text alerts and email alerts. A lot of clubs have taken it one step further and made it so that when the weather text alert goes out, the sirens are automatically tripped. I think that’s an amazing system for modern weather monitoring technology to have.
How do you help with major golf events?
At a major tournament—like a PGA or WPGA event for example—their crews are always busy. As in, they have their hands full with all aspects of sporting event operations. There's a lot at stake really and so it makes sense to actually have someone on site monitoring the weather as well. When I'm there I'm monitoring the cockpit and I'm providing outlooks and updates each day. The biggest issue at a professional tournament is lightning because lightning is what stops play. It’s not just the decision on whether or not they need to say suspend play, it's also decisions around when they can resume as well. For big tournaments it makes sense to have someone working on site and taking full control of the weather monitoring role - being the ‘eyes on the sky’ at all times.
What was the recent PGA and WGPA at Queensland Golf club like?
I thought it was awesome. I loved it, especially that the women were playing alongside with the men. Because of COVID travel restrictions it made sense to combine the events and I loved seeing the ladies getting some much deserved crowd and media attention. It seemed to me that the women pros were giving the blokes a bit of a run for their money at times too.
What is it that you like about golf?
I love the tactics golfers use on course. Plus, it's such a unique sport to watch compared to anything else. Instead of just sitting on your bum watching an event, there’s spectators who come out for the entire day, they make a full day of it, watching the athletes and wandering through these beautiful courses. Even things like at the recent WPGA in Brisbane there was amateurs in their first tournament playing alongside pros who have been doing this for 20 years. That kind of thing creates a really interesting dynamic and makes for a great atmosphere on the day.
In Australia, weather elements tend to impact golf much more than other sports. Ultimately anything can happen on course from a weather perspective. Sure, rain is an issue and wind is an issue but neither of those stop play the way lightning does.
Weather tips specifically for golfers
Golfers need to be very weather conscious when they're out on the course. Players underestimate the impact that heat and heat stress can have on their decision making. Your best bet is to be across the golf clubs weather plan and know where to go (real quick) if the sirens go off.
Words by Ronelle Richards