Snow for PGA is not so rare for Tucson

Dove Mountain is site of only two snowfalls on tour since 2005
2013-02-21T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:56:29Z Snow for PGA is not so rare for TucsonPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Stewart Williams didn't have to think long about the last time he saw pillows of snow blanketing a PGA Tour event.

"Well," the Tour meteorologist said, "it happened here, two years ago."

The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship took a snow day Wednesday before any of the 64 players could finish their match - and before 18 could even start.

The four hours between the opening drive and a driving snowstorm ranks "up there" with the most bizarre weather events Mark Russell, the PGA Tour vice president of rules and competition, had ever seen.

Still, it wasn't rare for Tucson.

Consider: Since the 2005 BellSouth Classic in Georgia, it's snowed twice during PGA Tour events.

Both times were at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain.

About an inch of early-morning snow fell the day of the 2011 Match Play finals.

It melted midday, and the noontime matches started on time. The only snafu: About an hour into the match, hail caused a five-minute delay.

Two years ago, the tournament moved a few matches one day early to avoid the morning cold.

"But unfortunately, this one, timing-wise, being on a Wednesday, really didn't help us that much," Williams said.

The meteorologist tracked the storm in the days leading up to the start of Match Play, and said he had a "great feeling" it would snow Wednesday.

He watched his computer Wednesday as gray skies turned to rain around 10:45 a.m., and then to sleet and snow.

Williams' job is to advise Russell, who also served as the tournament director. Russell decided when to stop play, and whether to postpone it.

"We've got radio contact, so it's real time," Williams said. "I can tell when it's going to start snowing, but it's all up to the course at that point.

"(Officials) make that call as soon as the course becomes unplayable, so it was strictly their decision."

Play was stopped at 11:07 a.m. Wednesday when the course became unplayable because of snow and hail.

"It's absolutely remarkable to think one minute we're playing golf, albeit it's a little cool, and then, within a space of 25 minutes, it turns from playable to cold drizzle to sleet and to snow," said Brit Ian Poulter, who led 3 up through 12 against Stephen Gallacher. "And within an hour and a half of all that starting, you've got 2 inches of snow, plus, on the ground. It's just bizarre."

At 1:05 p.m., after discussing his options with television and the event's sponsor, Russell canceled the day's events.

The temperature had plummeted, at one point, to 33 degrees, and about an inch and a half of snow stuck to the ground.

"Even if it melted in the next hour or so, it would still take another hour and half, probably, a little more than that, to let the golf course drain where we could play," Russell said.

"We were just spinning our wheels. So we decided to pull the plug on it."

A frost delay remains possible this morning, Williams said, and snow could still cling to the ground. He called frost the "biggest potential" for problems all week.

"I think the worst of the snow is probably over for us now," he said.

Williams expects mid-50s temperatures this afternoon and regularly in following days.

"Unfortunately we'll have below normal temperatures the rest of the week," the meteorologist said, "but at least we'll have some sun."

Williams joked that his last few weeks on the job had been too easy.

"I'm paying for it today," he said. "But it happens.

"For every good week we have, we're going to have a bad day or two, and that's just the way it is on the PGA Tour."

Especially, it seems, on Dove Mountain.

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at pfinley@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @PatrickFinley.

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