Theirs will forever be recalled as a relationship of unconditional support. That which Tim Rosaforte poured into Craig Dolch’s world at a time of need. And that which Dolch returned when a crushing blow befell Rosaforte.
Connected as they were by a circle of misfortune, what sat at the heart of their friendship was a human spirit that resonated in Dolch’s voice when he said: “If we all lived our lives like Tim did, we’d all be happier, we would treat people nicer, and the world would be a better place.”
Dolch’s words were delivered in solemnity just a few days after the news that shook many of us in the golf industry. Rosaforte, a reporter of impeccable standing who honed his talents at The Palm Beach Post, Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest / Golf World and The Golf Channel, had died at 66 of Alzheimer’s disease.
For days, there was an outpouring of love and respect, all of it richly deserved, from people who knew Tim. Which was just about everyone in and around golf. “Rosie” was as advertised, a warm and endearing personality, a plugged-in reporter with a relentless work ethic who always found time to answer your questions or have a chat.
All of us who knew him could tell Tim stories and mine would be no different. He befriended me early, conversed with me often, and was incredibly generous with his praise and support.
But it’s the story of Tim and Craig that captures the essence of a special relationship and hits at why Rosie was so beloved. Yes, their story centers around heartache that stretches back to that Father’s Day in 2005 when Dolch had his last conversation with his son, Eric.
Simple reminders of friends who shared a lot of golf together and were always there for one another.
At the time, Dolch covered golf for The Palm Beach Post and was on assignment at the U.S. Open in Pinehurst, N.C. Craig and Eric, then 14, exchanged their pleasantries on Father’s Day, but the next day the call from home was different. Eric had been taken to the hospital, something was terribly wrong and when Dolch arrived home after a long drive, the world was turned upside down.
A bacterial infection had reached Eric’s brain and the previously healthy teenager had to be placed in a medically-induced coma for four months.
The trips to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami “were six days a week,” said Dolch, “and Tim went down with me several times to see my son, who was in a coma. Afterward, we’d go out to dinner. How many would have done that? But Tim did that.”
Their paths had crossed by happenstance in Tampa back in 1981 but it was as sportswriters in South Florida a few years later that their friendship flourished. They covered tournaments together, went to concerts, and played a lot of golf.
Dolch was overwhelmed to discover that Rosaforte considered the hospital visits part of the friendship. Then came a phone call while Dolch was with his son at Spaulding Rehab in Boston in early 2006.
“Tim had an idea – an evening to raise funds (the family had to make major changes to the house to bring Eric home). Tim told me he had commitments from Raymond (Floyd), Jack and Barbara (Nicklaus), Dana Quigley, Don Shula, Nick (Price), Olin Browne, Wayne Huizenga, and others,” said Dolch. “I said I appreciated it, but I didn’t have time to do anything.”
Rosaforte told Dolch, “it’s all set. I’ve taken care of it” and a short time later the night at Old Palm GC went off grandly.
“The most humbling night of my life,” said Dolch, whose family started the Eric Dolch Children’s Encephalitis Foundation with Rosaforte’s guidance.
When Rosie would take his seat in press centers at golf tournaments – and for eight years at the Masters it was next to yours truly in the back row, seats J39 and J40 – he gave passionate updates on Eric Dolch and his golf games with Craig.
“He was just there even when I didn’t ask him for help,” said Craig, who knows that visiting a person who is non-verbal, as Eric is, is not easy.
“But Tim would visit. Tim was just always willing to give.”
Imagine, then, the unthinkable: Tim Rosaforte, uncanny in his ability to know just about anyone who is anyone in the world of golf, suddenly forgetting names and how to do the most routine of tasks.
Dolch was shaken when he heard the news about Rosaforte’s Alzheimer’s and saddened to the core when The Golf Channel announced his friend’s retirement in 2020. Yet Dolch knew he had to be there for Rosie, just as Rosie had been there for him.
"The thing is, I could never do for Tim as much as he did for me."
Sorry, in love and friendship there is no scorecard. Dolch made sure there were occasional trips to the cozy confines of the Palm Beach Par-3 Course and “Tim loved going out to Jupiter Hills,” he said. “Last year they had a 50th anniversary celebration of Jack Nicklaus’ PGA win at Ballen Isles (which in 1971 was PGA National’s East Course).
“Tim was in his glory. It was a golf setting and you got glimpses in his eyes. You knew Tim was still there, that he knew the essence of what was going on.”
With COVID restrictions, Craig Dolch has been limited to one-hour visits with Eric, who lives in a group home where he has 24/7 care. The tight guidelines pained Dolch, though he found a silver lining.
“It gave me more time to spend with Tim. Some days, I’d see them both.”
Digest, for a moment, what the emotions of such a day had to be like for Craig Dolch and consider how a circle had been connected. When he had felt helpless and needed support, Dolch had been lifted by Rosie, a friend who probably would have said, “you’d do the same for me.”
And God Bless, here was Craig Dolch doing just that.