In my mind, Tim Rosaforte will always be the big, robust guy I first met in the mid-80s, cutting the imposing figure of the ex-college football player he was, who stayed in great shape and dressed impeccably. In everything he did, Tim was outwardly buttoned up.
Still, I very quickly learned that his most prominent quality was an endearing vulnerability. The former jock who was driven to be a sports writer was humble and self-effacing about the professional challenges he took on. But it was with an attitude of gratitude – always looking to improve, always confident that getting knocked down would mean getting right back up, always whimsically attuned to the human comedy.
It made him funny, energized, easy company. But more than that, it was Tim’s bold willingness to vulnerably enter big arenas – at Sports Illustrated, at Golf Digest, at Golf Channel – that made him a constant and outstanding achiever.
Despite his doubts, or perhaps because of them, when Tim worked, it was for keeps. With focus and discipline and industry and determination. Whether for print or television, he would quickly identify a story angle that often no one else had, figure out who he needed to talk to in order to make it good, and set out on a mission – simultaneously working his multiple cell phones while tracking down targets in the locker room or even the parking lot – to bring it all home.
To that professional toughness, Tim brought kindness and empathy and warmth. 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.
Tim’s soft sides brought him countless friends. Tim was great fun to play golf with, a true lover of the game who because he was both blessed and cursed to know so many topflight instructors who wanted to help him, often had too many swing thoughts in his head. Whenever Tim felt an on-course meltdown taking him over, he would regroup by squatting down with his head in his hands, a hybrid of some of the yoga poses he had mastered (the ham in him led him to doing headstands during fitness segments on Morning Drive). We called it the Karma Crouch. Often, after arising, he would click back into competitive jock mode and hit a match-altering shot.
I once spoke to Dave Campo, the former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, about Tim on the occasion of his receiving the PGA of America’s Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Award. Dave had been an assistant football coach at the University of Bridgeport when Tim was an admittedly speed-challenged outside linebacker who knew he wouldn’t get to the edge on time unless he took the right angle.
“Tim was smart, tough and loved to play the game,” said Campo. “He wasn’t the fastest, but he studied film of the other team’s offense, could make the right in-game adjustments, and became a hard guy to block on his way to the right spot. He made himself a very good football player. It’s why you knew Tim was going to be successful at whatever he did.”
Especially when he led with his heart. In 2006, after the son of Tim’s friend, fellow golf writer Craig Dolch, contracted a bacterial infection that caused brain damage, Tim rallied the extensive Palm Beach golf community that he knew so well to organize a fundraising dinner. On a magical night, the prominent attendees that filled the Old Palm banquet room included Nicklaus, Floyd, Price, Carner and many more, and the Eric Dolch Children’s Encephalitis Foundation was formed.
In the ensuing years, the two friends deepened their bond, and after Tim received his diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2018, Craig, who still visits his son in a care facility every day, began a regimen of visiting Tim at least once a week, to go out to lunch, stop at a golf course, or just be together.
When I last saw Tim, in September in Florida, his short-term memory had faded, but he needed only a little prompting to remember people and places and moments from the past. Still easy company. He even chuckled a few times at a name or an old punch line. “We had a good time,” he said. “I hope I have more.” When he saw I was having trouble answering, the old empathetic interviewer returned, and he didn’t press. “You know,” he said, “it’s OK.”