JERSEY CITY, N.J. – CBS’s Jim Nantz and NBC’s Dan Hicks rotate as the voices of golf that we welcome into our living room each week. Throw in Fox’s Joe Buck – during the U.S. Open, at least – and Golf Channel’s Rich Lerner and you have a distinguished foursome behind the mic. We've heard Nantz say, “Hello, friends” and wax nostalgic about Augusta National enough that we feel like we know him. But not even Nantz can claim to call more live PGA Tour golf than Earl Forcey.
For the past few years, golf geek that I am, I have been tuning in with more frequent regularity to the PGA Tour Radio Network on Sirius XM. I listen in the car, during my workout, and even while picking out groceries. When I do, I often ask myself, Who is Earl Forcey? He's the guy who, as he put it, “probably watches more golf than anyone covering the game.”
Nearly 40 weeks per year, Forcey, 54, is the lead play-by-play commentator for Sirius XM. He’s usually on the air for six hours daily on Thursday and Friday and five hours on each weekend day, shot-by-shot until a winner is declared. That’s at least 22 hours of wall-to-wall coverage, and yet no one could pick him out of a police lineup. He’s golf’s most anonymous commentator. At the Presidents Cup this week, Forcey will provide listeners with 27 hours of live hole-by-hole coverage from Liberty National Golf Club alongside analysts Dennis Paulson and Mark Immelman.
When I met Forcey at the Players Championship in May, I immediately recognized the voice, but I have to concede that I didn't expect him to have a ponytail. As for the job, he described it as playing traffic cop.
“I’ve got to keep the car on the road,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure there are no wrecks.”
Forcey brings 30 years of sports-radio experience to the job. He grew up in Washington, listening to Tony Roberts call the Redskins, and later worked with him for 20 years. Forcey has worked with childhood heroes such as Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff, and has broadcast everything from college basketball to Olympic speed skating to Super Bowls.
“Those are the chops I bring to this,” Forcey said. “I’m classically trained in the world of music on radio and came up the old-fashioned way.”
Forcey termed himself a generalist, and he still does sportscasts for D.C.’s 106.7 The Fan at the top and bottom of the hour, Monday through Wednesday. He stumbled into calling golf in 2008 when a former colleague asked him whether he would be interested in serving as a fill-in. A handful of tournaments has grown into what he called “a semi-permanent gig.” Most of the time, he works from a studio in D.C., alongside another analyst in a booth and work off a television monitor. Mark Carnevale, Mark McCumber, Dickie Pride and Paulson are among the half-dozen or so analysts who rotate as Forcey’s partner. Paulson, for one, marvels at how Forcey is a fountain of knowledge and absorbs information without relying on charts, notes or much of anything else.
“He’s got more information off the top of his head than anyone I’ve ever been around,” Paulson said.
That is one of Forcey’s great strengths. Listening to PGA Tour events on the radio tends to be for the die-hard golf fan.
“You can’t fake it. You get exposed pretty quickly,” Forcey said. “I hate to use the word fill, but in a TV broadcast you allow the picture to tell the story. If I do that, it’s just silence. Silence is not golden. I try to think, If I was listening, what would I like to hear? Because I’ve got to come up with something.”
That’s usually not a problem for Forcey. He loves to talk.
“I hear it all the time at home: Stop talking,” he said. “That's what I do, and it’s what I always wanted to do.”
Adam Schupak has written about golf since 1997 for the likes of Golfweek, Golf World and The New York Times. He is the author of Deane Beman: Golf's Driving Force. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @adamschupak