A Fond Farewell to Golf’s Ultimate Insider, and a Generous Teammate
The author looks back on the life and impact of Tim Rosaforte, who set the standard for versatility and dogged reporting
By John Hawkins
Barely two years after leaving Golf Channel due to emerging complications of early Alzheimer’s, Tim Rosaforte died on January 11th from related causes of the disease near his home in Jupiter, Fla. He was 66 years old. Although news of Tim’s rapidly deteriorating condition became a source of shock and sorrow to all who knew him, it also served as a platform from which so many could celebrate the life of a man whose unrelenting pursuit of excellence was every bit as enviable as the success itself.
He never raised his voice, not once, in the 13 years we worked together. He was incapable of gloating, perhaps owing to the years he spent on the back of his father’s garbage truck, waking up at 5 a.m. to do a very real job at a very young age. Life’s lessons were a stark reality to Tim Rosaforte, whose industrious roots and incomparable work ethic made him one of the most respected and recognizable golf writers ever to cover the game. Tim was the original “insider,” an information-gathering machine whose career was reshaped by a groundbreaking transition from print journalism to television in the mid-2000s.
If Dan Jenkins was the snarky superstar, if Herbert Warren Wind was the contemplative poet, Tim was the blue-collar kid in a navy blazer and red tie. His newsy nuggets made him a star at Golf Channel, where he bolstered the network’s credibility with his tireless reporting and a bottomless trove of sources. In an age of sound bytes and shrinking attention spans, T-Rose told you more in 90 seconds than others did in 90 days.
He was a pioneer in a business where few things haven’t already been tried. Dozens of scribes have since ventured down the path Tim cleared long ago, but none of them can match his longevity, consistency and authenticity. Right up until his final days at Golf Channel, the old pro was chasing down leads like a cub reporter lobbying for a raise.
“Tim was better on television than he was in the print media, and he was great in print,” says Geoff Russell, who managed Tim for 12 years at Golf World magazine, then again during his final seven years at the network. “If you had 10 minutes of unfilled airtime and didn’t know what to do with it, I’d say, ‘Just put Tim in there. Let him empty his notebook in front of a camera and it will be great TV.’ As our industry evolved, Tim evolved with it. No matter the platform, he excelled and established the standard.”
My association with Tim was, dare I say, unlike any other friendship or professional alliance in his life. We covered 50 major championships together for Golf World, about half of which we spent living in a rented house near the venue. To call Tim a neat freak would’ve been a comical understatement. His fastidious nature was a vital component to his superb reporting skill—Tim struggled to function in a disheveled environment and went out of his way to keep things tidy and organized.
Important meetings, crucial phone conversations, testy disagreements … not only did Tim pull back the curtain and provide public access to the how and the why behind the game’s biggest decisions, he also did it with unfailing accuracy and integrity. He broke stories without breaking relationships. He brought us the truth without sacrificing an ounce of trust. Of course, you probably knew all that. The game is a large but tightly knit community, and Tim was a fixture in it for the better part of 40 years. All the accolades, citations and kind words directed his way before and after his health-induced retirement were a wonderful reminder of how the industry takes care of its own, a collective display of appreciation for one man’s longtime commitment to excellence.
On my lone visit to his home, a stylish but hardly lavish abode in Jupiter, Fla., Tim parked in the driveway and led me inside through the two-car garage. The floor was spotless. Not a drop of motor oil, not a stray blade of grass, just a gleaming, off-white surface on which one wouldn’t think twice about having a nice meal. His office was equally impeccable, featuring a bookcase filled with a quarter-century’s worth of media guides, all sorted by the organizations that produced them, all shelved in chronological order. The house was full of photos of his wife Genevieve and daughters Molly and Genna and Tim’s three grandchildren, all of whom he adored and doted on.
Tim’s attention to detail seemed to subdue his anxiety, which dogged him at times, but it also drove him to great lengths in his pursuit of a story. It didn’t hurt that he owned the game’s most comprehensive Rolodex—the guy had every phone number a golf writer could possibly ask for. Tim wasn’t keen on giving out such information, but if you were a colleague, he’d not only accommodate you but also occasionally make the call on your behalf or let the subject know you’d be ringing. Without question, he was the most generous and valuable teammate I’ve encountered in my 38 years as a sportswriter. To cite just one example: The 1997 British Open was my third attempt at writing the “game story” from a major championship for Golf World, a 2,500-word recap of the week that had to arrive in Connecticut headquarters by sunrise the following morning. Even with a five-hour cushion from the time zones, I struggled mightily. By midnight, I was choking my guts out, my needle was on empty and I was still 500 words short with the deadline looming. Rosaforte had long since filed two pages of notes when he found out Justin Leonard and his posse were drinking champagne from the Claret Jug over a nearby campfire. He crashed the victory party, banged out an exclusive piece on that scene and then grabbed my crappy old Radio Shack TRS-80 and typed my story to the finish line.
You can’t drive down to the corner store and find a teammate like that.
We bonded like brothers overseas, in part because the magazine sent three or four writers instead of the usual six or seven (plus an editor or two) to the U.S. majors. Tim enjoyed the freedom that came with reduced staffing and often served as our captain at those events, assuming a huge portion of the workload while setting up enough golf to make those annual trips the highlight of our summers on the road.
Ah, the golf. I’m almost ashamed to admit how many rounds we played on both sides of the Atlantic without paying a dime. Tim always handled the arrangements, which meant everywhere we went, we were treated like rock stars even before his public profile grew to the edge of fame. By 2007, however, things had begun to change. The internet was swiftly emerging as an essential media platform, killing the weekly magazine format—and cutting into all that free time we had covering tournaments. Then the economy tanked, leaving the bean counters to question why Golf World was sending two writers to 15 or 20 events a year.
At the ’07 U.S. Open, Tim and I had a rare disagreement, over his expanding role at Golf Channel. He had basically become a full-time employee in Orlando, which I considered a conflict of interest. Nevermind that his ambition was absolutely none of my business; me and my big mouth only made a tough situation worse. Although Tim dealt with the skirmish like a total pro, I knew I’d committed the unpardonable sin of throwing under the bus the man who had always been my biggest advocate.
Fifteen months later, Rosaforte persuaded Golf Channel brass to hire me as a regular on the “Grey Goose 19th Hole.”
T-Rose 1, Bus 0.
Outside of my immediate family, only a handful of people have impacted my life more than the kid on the back of that garbage truck. Tim’s poise, modesty and nose for the goal line were traits I admired to the point of jealousy. The advanced form of Alzheimer’s robbed him of the long and happy retirement he deserved more than anybody—this insidious disease proved to be the one foe not even Tim could outwork.
I cried when I found out about the seriousness of Tim’s condition, then lapsed into anger at those invisible forces that long ago decided that life ain’t fair. Now I just want to hold on to the best things life has to offer. Tim Rosaforte was that for me.
Those wonderful times together will never die, partner. You created the memories. I’ll hold onto them forever.