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Maui tournament reaped benefits of outgoing organizer’s time, energy

By Ferd Lewis

LAST UPDATED: 3:08 a.m. HST, Jun 30, 2011

A week ago Mark Rolfing was creatively charged up and seeking a way to get golf’s hottest property, Rory McIlroy, to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in January.

Lobby for a PGA Tour policy change on exemptions, perhaps? Maybe some behind-the-scenes moving and shaking? Cellphone in hand as he tried to catch a flight, Rolfing’s mind was lining up and taking a whack at the possibilities like they were range balls.

That’s the thing about Rolfing: He attacks challenges with vision and energy. Especially when they concern two of his passions, golf and Maui.

Which is why we are left to wonder about the announcement by the PGA Tour of his termination as host of the Hyundai event.

Officially, the PGA Tour’s statement saluted the “tremendous support” he and wife Debi have given the event and his “willingness to remain involved during this transition” while noting “Mark is synonymous with golf in Hawaii.”

The laudatory comments sound like lines from a testimonial, not a statement about termination. They only reinforce the curiousness of a parting that neither the PGA Tour nor the sponsor will address further. Rolfing, except for a disappointed shaking of the head and some under-the-breath mutterings, declines comment.

The initial impression is that the loss is not Rolfing’s, however much he might feel the sting now. You just hope it won’t be a bigger loss for local golf.

After all, between serving as a golf analyst for NBC and the Golf Channel, hosting Global Golf Adventure and being a resource for most anybody who asks, it isn’t like the 62-year-old needs the work.

For someone who fell in love with Maui at first glance 35 years ago, little of what he has done on the Valley Isle or, indeed, on the state’s behalf, is considered work.

And in donating his time and foundation’s resources in hosting and helping raise $285,190 for local charities through the TOC in 2011, he’s not in it for the bucks.

Nobody in the state has the familiarity with as many facets of the golf world as Rolfing in a career that has seen him rise from the Kapalua cart barn to director of golf there. He’s played professional golf tours on several continents and has been in marketing and TV.

Rolfing helped start the Kapalua International and has helped save the TOC while being a resource to state officials in securing events and negotiating contracts. The contacts and relationships are considerable for someone who even had a former vice president (Dan Quayle) as his college roommate and golf teammate.

Precisely the kind of well-rounded person you would want involved in one of the state’s most visible events. Especially since the Maui tournament and the Sony Open in Hawaii are linked by circumstance. If either of them folds its tent, chances are it will be curtains for the other as well.

In stepping in to help run the Hyundai TOC on short notice for 2011, he brought some good ideas, such as a wider inclusion of junior golfers and initiatives to involve more local fans, and welcome enthusiasm.

You would think that Rolfing is somebody the sponsor and PGA Tour would beseech to stay on the job, not be in a hurry to chase away without being able to articulate a reason.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.

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