NBC/Golf Channel analyst Mark Rolfing and wife Debi, whose shared passion for growth-of-the-game initiatives served as a platform to establish one of the country’s most inspiring foster parent networks, have been named co-recipients of the PGA Distinguished Service Award.
The Rolfings will be honored Nov. 2, at the Austin Hilton in Austin, Texas, in conjunction with the PGA of America’s 101st annual meeting.
A native of Evanston, Illinois, and raised in DeKalb, Mark is a 1971 graduate of DePauw University in Greencastle. He earned a master’s degree in 1973 from Northern Illinois University.
Debi was born and raised in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. In addition to sharing a career with her husband in growing the game of golf, she became one of the most successful and respected real estate brokers in Hawaii for nearly three decades.
Begun in 1988, the PGA Distinguished Service Award honors outstanding individuals who display leadership and humanitarian qualities, including integrity, sportsmanship and a passion for the game of golf. By their endeavors, they have given back to others and helped grow the game of a lifetime.
Following Mark’s brief professional playing career, in 1976 Debi and Mark moved to Maui, Hawaii, where Mark became the director of marketing at Kapalua Resort. Debi and Mark developed their own television marketing firm, Rolfing Productions, in 1985. It was the beginning of a career when they became ambassadors for Hawaiian golf.
As the Rolfings promoted golf within Hawaii, Mark joined the NBC Sports golf team as an on-course reporter in 1988 and quickly became one of the most respected announcers in the industry. Beginning in 1992, he spent six years with ESPN/ABC Sports before rejoining NBC in 1998.
In 1990, The Mark and Debi Rolfing Charitable Foundation began with the aim of bettering the lives of high-risk, underserved children in need. In addition to supporting numerous other children’s charities, the Rolfings have been licensed foster parents for 18 years. Through their Cradle Care Ministry, Debi and Mark have personally welcomed, loved and provided care in their Hawaii and Montana homes for 28 newborns, the majority being medically and often critically fragile at birth. The Rolfings’ nurturing care in their homes provides valuable time while adoption attorneys and case managers assess if the children can be reunited with their birth parents or placed with adoptive families.
Mark is a survivor of stage 4 salivary gland cancer, a diagnosis he received in August 2015. It was during his post-surgery recovery at the University of Chicago Medical Center that his visits took him past Jackson Park, which spawned his family’s most recent growth-of-the-game initiative: the Chicago Parks Golf Alliance, established with a mission to attract the next generation of golfers to Jackson Park by providing equipment, instruction and mentoring to youth on the city’s South Side.
“Mark and Debi Rolfing’s combined energy and passion for their beloved Hawaii has spread across the country to help grow the game of golf, while balancing a selfless commitment to benefit the lives of children,” said PGA President Paul Levy. “Mark and Debi have touched the lives of many through golf, which is a powerful vehicle to better the lives of others. Because of their endeavors, the PGA of America is extremely proud to present them with the PGA Distinguished Service Award.”
“Debi and I feel incredibly honored to have been chosen to receive this prestigious award,” said Mark in reaction to the announcement during the PGA championship. “We are extremely fortunate that our life in golf has provided us a platform to make a difference in so many young people’s lives.”
“Having shared a wonderful journey with Mark through golf, it was a blessing that we could use those experiences to move into another enriching chapter of our lives to help others,” Debi said.