Once a sports talk radio host, Drew Forrester is now thriving in a sport that values the tradition of silence.
Forrester, the golf coach at Calvert Hall, will play in the 41st U.S. Senior Open at Omaha Country Club in Omaha, which begins Thursday. The 58-year-old Parkville resident is one of 24 amateurs who earned his spot in the prestigious event by shooting a 1-under 69 at a sectional qualifier at Argyle Country Club in Silver Spring June 14.
“I feel like I’ve already won,” Forrester said Monday from his hotel in Omaha before taking part in a practice round at the course with 1985 and 1993 Masters champion Bernhard Langer. “It’s a very difficult golf course, but I want to play well. But I feel like no matter what happens, I’ve already won. I’m going to play with the best players in the world, they treat you great, and it’s just awesome. It’s sort of a dream come true even though I never had a dream this big. I never knew this was a possibility.”
Forrester’s performance at the U.S. Senior Open will be followed closely by many who are supporting him, including members of the Calvert Hall golf team whom Forrester has served as head coach since 2013.
“I think it’s going to be crazy that we know someone playing in the U.S. Senior Open in Omaha, Nebraska,” said rising senior Lorenzo Sanz, who was the Cardinals’ top golfer this past season. “This is the top of the top with the best of the best that have played the game in the past and are still playing it. It’s a really cool opportunity to see how instead of him preaching to us, he gets to use it himself and see what he can do with it.”
Forrester did not pick up golf until he was 23 years old, playing soccer and ice hockey while attending Glen Burnie High School. He credited his introduction to golf to former Baltimore Blast coach Kenny Cooper.
“When I was the PR director, Kenny Cooper said to me, ‘You need to learn how to play golf in order to be able to hang out with people like [late WBAL-TV sportscaster] Vince Bagli and [late WMAR-TV sportscaster] Jack Dawson and [former WJZ sportscaster] John Buren. You need to learn how to play golf,’” Forrester recalled. “… I started to play just from a business standpoint. Some guys my age turn to softball or basketball, and I just loved golf. I loved the fact that you could play or practice by yourself, and there was a way to keep yourself accountable.”
Cooper, who now lives in Texas, said he gave Forrester his first set of clubs, but was struck at how easily the game came to Forrester, whom he called a natural. He said it took Forrester only a few years to hit fades and hooks with remarkable accuracy and compelled him to make a prediction while dining with Forrester at Liberatore’s in Timonium some 30 years ago.
“I said, ‘Drew, I’m going to tell you something and write this down. One day, you’re going to play on the senior professional tour, and I’ll be your caddy,’” Cooper, now 74, said. “He said, ‘Coach, come on.’ But he dreamt about it. When I got the phone call from him telling me what happened, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is his love story with golf.’ Obviously, he’s done very well in his own right.”
After the Blast folded when the Major Indoor Soccer League stopped operating in 1992, Forrester became an entrepreneur and then worked at WNST for 12 years, which included hosting weekday morning shifts from 6 to 10 a.m. until August 2014 when he was one of five employees laid off by the radio station. Although pained by that decision, Forrester said it allowed him to concentrate on golf, which led to the head coaching position of the Calvert Hall golf team and more time on his own game.
Forrester, whose home course is Eagle’s Nest Country Club in Phoenix and estimates he averages three rounds per week, was one of 88 men vying for one of three berths at the sectional qualifier at Argyle. A 69 put him in a three-way playoff for the final spot — which he gained with a 15-foot birdie on the fourth playoff hole, outlasting Barry Dear of Woodbury, N.J. and Eric Egloff of Arnold.
That ending overshadowed Forrester’s birdies at holes No. 17 and 18 to qualify for the playoff, and he said that six-hole sequence was the best he had ever played thanks to reviewing a prayer he has recited with his Calvert Hall golfers.
“For some reason, I got my phone out before the playoff, and I read the prayer, and something about it comforted me,” he said. “I basically said, ‘Whatever happens, please God, take care of me. If I win, that’s awesome. If I lose, don’t let it crush me.’ I just felt this comfort that I probably have never had before. I don’t know, maybe Tiger has it, and that’s why he wins so many tournaments. I just felt like I was going to win. It’s hard to explain, but I just felt like I was going to win the playoff, and I played all six holes perfectly.”
In addition to playing practice rounds with Langer, a World Golf Hall of Famer who has 41 wins on the PGA Champions Tour; four-time PGA Tour winner Billy Andrade; and eight-time PGA Tour winner and former Maryland golf coach Fred Funk, Forrester said he did a double take when he saw a locker with his name close to 2003 U.S. Champion Jim Furyk’s. He said he would love to play with golfing idol Fred Couples, but thinks he will be matched up with other amateurs.
“I’ll take whatever pairing they give me, but I would probably prefer to play with two other amateurs,” he said. “We can go out and play by ourselves, and that would be awesome. I don’t need a bunch of people following me around, and I don’t need to be part of a marquee group that includes Fred Couples and Jim Furyk. I would prefer to not have that — at least for the first two days. If that happened on the weekend, that would be pretty cool.”
Forrester admitted that he may feel some butterflies as he prepares to tee off in Thursday’s first round. But Sanz said he and his teammates are confident their coach will fare well.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for him, and I think he’ll be very prepared,” he said. “He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s been in competitive situations before and has had a very successful amateur career so far. I think he will do very well. I think he’ll be very pleased with where he ends up finishing if he just sticks to his game plan and if he executes what he wants to execute.”
Forrester said his top priority is making the cut, which would earn him an automatic exemption to next month’s U.S. Senior Amateur Aug. 28 to Sept. 2 at the Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. Cooper said Forrester has the goods to make that a reality.
“I told him, ‘Drew, I know this comes as a surprise, but enjoy it. Don’t think that just because you made it, it’s over with. You don’t know what’s going to happen,’” he said. “He can drive the ball, he’s got a great swing. I think he will do a great job of controlling his nerves. I’ve always said that giant goals produce giant motivations. So he has set his goals. He’s well prepared. We’re all pulling for him.”
Against a field that includes 2013 and 2017 U.S. Senior Open champion Kenny Perry, 1994 and 1997 U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, and 2001 and 2004 U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, Forrester said he is frequently reminding himself that he deserves to play with them.
“You also realize that when you get there and you see them hitting golf balls and you get on the golf course, it’s just golf,” he said. “It’s a little different than the old days at Mount Pleasant [Golf Course in Baltimore], but it’s just golf. You’re still playing 18 holes, you’re still teeing it up, you’re still trying to figure out your yardages. Eventually you do settle in and realize that it’s the same thing you’ve been doing for the past 25 years. It’s just on a different stage.”