HARTFORD, Conn. – When I first became the golf writer for The Hartford Courant in the early 1970s, one of the first major national writers whom I got to know was Tim Rosaforte. The brilliant scribe from South Florida who later worked for several national television networks was as acknowledgable and personable as they came, and I was fortunate to become good friends with him.
Tim had been battling Alzheimer’s Disease for several years and his death wasn’t far off, and it came Tuesday in Jupiter, Fla., at the age of 66 from complications of the disease. Rosaforte was a senior writer at Golf Digest and its sister publication Golf World for more than 20 years and also worked at Sports Illustrated, Golf Channel and NBC before being forced to retire in 2019 because of Alzheimer’s.
Tim grew up in Mount Kisco, N.Y., and attended the University of Bridgeport for two years before transferring to the Univiersity of Rhode Island, where he played football and earned a degree in journalism in 1977. He began his career at the Tampa Times in 1977, earned more than 40 writing awards, including first place in all four non-daily categories of the Golf Writers Association of America writing contest. He covered 125 major championships and 17 Ryder Cups and received the PGA of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism and the Memorial Tournament’s golf journalism award from host Jack Nicklaus. The PGA also awarded him a lifetime membership, the first journalist to receive the honor, and he also was honored when the Honda Classic that he covered for three decades near his home named its media center after him. The tournament also announced the Tim Rosaforte Distinguished Writers’ Award to be presented annually, and he was the first recipient.
Rosaforte was survived by his wife, Genevieve, daughters Molly and Genna and three grandchildren.
Tim’s death reverberated throughout the golf world, where “Rosie” was beloved by players, reporters and fans. His pioneering work and gentle spirit left a singular imprint on his colleagues, who continually greeted people with a smile and good word. Everyone trusted Tim, which is why he had everybody’s cell number and everybody called him back. You knew he was going to give you a fair shake, and when he got the unfairest shake of all, he still met life with a smile on his face and a gratefulness in his heart.
“The PGA Tour family lost a friend in Tim Rosaforte, one of the great golf journalists of his generation,” commissioner Jay Monahan, who grew up in Massachusetts and is a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, said in a statement. “Tim was an amazing storyteller and spent much of his energy showcasing what sets golf apart from other sports, the people and the personalities.
“A true professional, Tim always treated our organization and our athletes fairly, writing and speaking with an opinion, but without an agenda. He never stopped working the phones, ensuring that he not only got the story first, he got the story right, Those phone calls – and Tim’s gentle spirit – will be missed tremendously by all of us lucky enough be a part of the greater golf community.”
“We at NBC Sports are all so deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our friend and colleague, Tim Rosaforte,” NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevaqua said. “Tim was one of the great voices of the game for many years, and a strong and trusted presence for the entire golf community. On a personal level, I will miss our conversations and the walks we would take around championship venues over the course of the last two-plus decades.”
“He was a decorated all-star, a legend in our business,” Golf Channel host Rich Lerner said, “but he played like a guy just called up from the minors … as you get deeper into life and further along into a career, what you come to value is working with good people – people who care, people who are unselfish, people who value getting it right, people with heart, people who make you laugh. That’s how we all feel about Tim…there was no one better than ‘Rosie.’ ”
“Tim brought kindness and empathy and warmth,” said close friend Jaime Diaz, now a reporter for Golf Channel. “It was why he had so many sources among the players, caddies, coaches, agents and administrators in golf, and why they always called him back. They knew if the freedom they felt with Tim led them to something more revealing than intended, the reporter would understand and present it in the right tone and spirit. It gained Tim trust and respect, and made him a distinctive among his peers.”
Here’s a few other rememberances from Rosaforte’s collegegues:
The first time I met Tim was at my first PGA Tour event. He was walking smartly from one appointment to the next as I was loitering by the practice putting green bedraggled with a notebook and backpack. I was astonished as he pulled not one, not two, but three cellphones from the inner breast pockets of his blazer. This was the era of Blackberries and flip-phones, so not insignificant cargo as far as bulk. “These are my tools,” he told me. “Never be without your tools.” A point he was trying to impress was, he’d noticed my writing style but believed I could do more as a reporter. He couldn’t have been more right. I hung with him some more that week and could hardly believe all the pros who texted him first. He had built up unrivaled trust by knowing which scoops to sit on. – Max Adler
A story about Tim Rosaforte being kind to a young person in golf is on its own pretty unremarkable because Tim was kind to so many people in golf. There was a time when he had little incentive to do so that he was incredible to me. The setting was the 1997 Walker Cup at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y. I was 22 and covering the event for the local newspaper, and Tim was there for Golf World. In his never-ending search for nuggets of information, Tim read a story I wrote and apparently liked it enough to walk up and introduce himself. A friendship was born. We learned we had grown up near one another and that at one point we both had the same gruff newspaper editor. For years after, Tim would send me notes with either compliments or story ideas; when a job opportunity opened at Golf Digest, I breathlessly called Tim asking for his help. He cut me off. “I already spoke to them,” he said.
I don’t know if Tim was the sole reason I got the job, but he was one of the main reasons I was encouraged to pursue a career in golf journalism. He was my first great mentor, a model for how to navigate the golf world with kindness and grace. – Sam Weinman
My first job in golf media was as a reporter/fact-checker for Sports Illustrated’s then-new Golf Plus section. Tim was new, too, not to golf journalism, but to SI. He had just been hired to write many of the game and industry stories that packed the Tiger-fattened weekly special section. We were both on the biggest stage for the first time, and we became fast friends and allies navigating SI’s notoriously cutthroat political landscape. Tim was a relentless and meticulous reporter with an enormous collection of sources. My job was to make sure his copy made it through SI’s protracted editing process with his carefully reported facts still in place—so he could maintain the trust of those sources. He didn’t have to spend the extra time teaching a relative beginner the art (and hard labor) of building relationships, finding the real story and telling the truth, but to know Tim was to be the beneficiary of his motiveless generosity and legendarily straight shooting. It was an honor to be on the same masthead with him for more than 20 years. – Matthew Rudy
I first met Tim at the 1988 Masters and first played golf with him at The Belfry in England the Monday after the 1993 Ryder Cup. He set up the tee time. It was one of the many ways Tim shared his bountiful contacts in the world of golf. From the beginning, Rosie made it easy to get to know him because of the gentle, gracious way he interacted with people. He invited you into his world and generously shared what he knew and who he knew. When we started working together at Golf Digest and Golf World in 1998, my appreciation of that giving nature in Tim only deepened. As a journalistic colleague, he played the game the same way he played college football—as a true teammate. Rosie and I had another bond right off the bat. I always viewed myself as more of a reporter than a writer and the same was true for Tim. The part of journalism he loved was gathering information, finding out the why and the how of something or somebody. Few were as good at it as Tim. His phone contained everyone’s number and because he never burned anyone by betraying their confidence or by misrepresenting what they said, everyone always called him back. And that’s the bottom line. Rosie was so good at what he did because of the respectful way he treated people. In a time of tremendous change in the news business, Tim Rosaforte was one of the people who gave journalism a good name. – Ron Sirak
Count me among the legion of young reporters who will never be able to thank Tim Rosaforte enough for being there as I got started in golf writing. I’d been assigned the amateur beat at Golf Digest’s sister publication, Golf World, and my boss, Geoff Russell, said it might be smart to go to Florida and meet with Tim during the week of the Coleman Invitational, a high-profile mid-amateur event just up the road from Rosie’s home in Palm Beach Gardens. The idea was for him to introduce me to a few people who I could then call to help with our amateur coverage. I’d heard about Tim’s impressive network of sources, but I got to witness his famed Rolodex come to life as he connected me to dozens of influential golf industry folks during an evening at Seminole Golf Club. As I was leaving, I thanked him for what he had done, but by the time I’d gotten back home to Connecticut, Tim had left a voice mail message with a few more names and numbers he thought I should have just in case. That was Tim, always looking out for others. From then on, he and I would talk often about golf and writing. It made me feel better knowing that a journalist as successful as Tim had the same insecurities over his writing that I did and that, just like me, he wrestled with concerns about being on the road and away from family, too. Seeing how he juggled all his assignments gave me comfort that it was all doable. I wasn’t the most important person in Rosaforte’s Rolodex, but when we talked, he always made me feel that way. – Ryan Herrington
RIP, Tim, one of the classiest and kindest people that I’ve ever met while covering sports for 52 years.
WATSON TO BE MASTERS HONORARY STARTER
On a more positive note, Tom Watson has been named an honorary starter for the Masters, joining Nicklaus and Gary Player. Watson won his first of two Masters in 1977, my debut covering the year’s first major for The Courant. My wife, Nancy, and I walked the last two rounds with Watson’s caddie, Wethersfield native Bruce Edwards, who wasn’t allowed to work because only local caddies could be used at that time. Watson birdied the 17th hole and beat six-time champion Nicklaus by two strokes.
“I am honored that Tom has accepted our invitation,” said Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters. “I look forward to commemorating his love for the game and impact on the Masters with his millions of fans across the globe as he hits a tee shot alongside two of the tournament’s other all-time greats.”
Watson said, “Augusta National in April is one of my favorite places to be. With the many fond memories of both watching the Masters as a youngster and then competing in the tournament for so many years, I am greatly honored to join my friends and fellow competitors, Jack and Gary, as an Honorary Starter in this upcoming Masters. In both of my victories, Jack was on my heels. And when Gary won his third tournament in 1978, I was there to help him put on the green jacket. Moments like those stand out in my career, and the opportunity to share the Honorary Starter tradition with Jack, Gary and the Masters patrons will be very special.”
Watson had the two victories and was runner-up three times. During a 15-year stretch starting with his 1977 win to 1991, Watson finished tied for seventh or better 11 times, and his “worst” showing was a tie for 14th. He made 42 consecutive appearances at Augusta National, and only Nicklaus has more sub-par rounds, with Watson holding the record for most consecutive years (21) with at least one under-par score. His 72.74 scoring average is fifth best in tournament history.
The tradition of honorary starters at the Masters began in 1963 with Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod, who who won the PGA Seniors’ Championship at Augusta National in 1937 and 1938. Other players who have been honorary starters include Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, Ken Venturi, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Lee Elder.
The Masters begins April 7, and Hideki Matsuyama is the defending champ.