Mark Rolfing’s remarkable return to Golf Channel

Posted on December 31, 2015

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Mark RolfingAfter a major surgery for a rare form of salivary gland cancer in August 2015, Golf Channel Analyst Mark Rolfing sounded great and was ready to go, not missing a tee in the discussion today.

Organized by NBC Sports and Golf Channel’s, Senior Manager, of Public Relations,  Jeremy Friedman, the Media Conference previewed the 2016 Hyundai Tournament of Champions held on the Island Maui at the Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. And to discuss Mark Rolfing’s return to Television Following Mark’s Cancer Treatment. 

In the Discussion, NBC Sports and Golf Channel analysts Peter Jacobsen, Frank Nobilo and Mark Rolfing ran through a preview of the 2016 Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii.  The Hyundai Tournament of Champions features a winners-only field from the 2014-15 PGA TOUR season and is the start of the 2016 PGA TOUR. We included the following excerpts from -NBC Sports Group- along with our questions at the bottom of the article:

-NBC Sports Group- 

Topics discussed:

 –          Golf Channel / NBC Sports analyst Mark Rolfing’s return to television at Hyundai Tournament of Champions following Cancer surgery and treatment.

          World No. 1 Jordan Spieth and expectations for 2016.

          The rivalry between Spieth, Day and McIlroy competing for the World No. 1 spot in 2016.

          The Hyundai Tournament of Champions as the kickoff event to the 2016 PGA TOUR calendar and the importance of the event on the PGA TOUR schedule.

          Thoughts on golf’s return to the Olympics and the busy summer tournament schedule.

 Notable Quotes from the Media conference call:

 Mark Rolfing: “I have experienced a minor miracle, it appears, and we got the tumor out, and I went through six weeks of radiation down at MD Anderson. They worked very hard on it. I go back for all the final tests at the end of January. But the doctors are really optimistic and I am going to be back in the saddle starting next week. I can’t wait. I think that Peter and Frank need to be on their toes, because I have a little pent-up demand after six months of doing nothing but watching, so be careful guys.”

 Peter Jacobsen: “Playing the Plantation Course is much like playing The Open Championship when you get to Europe, because you’re dealing with uphill, downhill slopes. You’re dealing with crosswinds. You’re dealing with grainy greens that slope tremendously. You might have a 10-foot putt that breaks 12 feet. So it really is a test. It’s a full test. It’s a different test than we see, really, at any of the golf courses we play in the United States. So when the payers come over, they really have to be on their games, and it’s a real test.”

 Frank Nobilo: “I don’t think there was a rivalry with Tiger Woods. He played the best decade of golf that’s ever been played. We can argue who is the greatest player of all time but nobody has reached those heights…I think what’s beautiful about the top three players in the world now is they have all beat each other, and that’s what a rivalry is.”

 Mark Rolfing: “There’s a couple of players who haven’t totally embraced the Olympics yet, but I believe the closer we get, the more guys you will see embracing it.”

 Peter Jacobsen: “It will ramp up in excitement as we get closer to August. But once those players get in position to qualify for their respective countries, I think you’re going to see the interest level really soar.”

Mahalo to -NBC Sports Group- for the final transcript of the Media Conference

Pre-interview Mark Rolfing with Tina Quizon PGA Sony Open 2013 Photo: A preinterview moment with Mark Rolfing and Tina Quizon at the PGA Sony Open in 2013. 

Tina Quizon : I had two surgeries for breast cancer in March, and Mark, hearing your story really inspired me about your journey. What gives you that perseverance to continue?

            MARK ROLFING: Well, I certainly think one of the things was I missed my job. Like I said, sitting there watching, and not being able to be a part of it like I have for nearly 30 years, was inspiration enough.

I think the thing that really sort of hit home for me more than anything else was I left the PGA on Wednesday, and I went down and had my surgery on Thursday. They removed the tumor. It was a very difficult operation, almost seven and a half hours worth of surgery, and I was recuperating on Sunday watching the final round of the PGA Championship, which you have to remember, is not on NBC. It’s on CBS, another network.

And at one point during the telecast going to a commercial break, Jim Nantz kind of did a shout out to Mark Rolfing. It just ‑‑ it hit me like a load of bricks, and I realized at that point what the game and what my friends and what my colleagues and everything really meant to me, and that I had to do whatever I could and work as hard as I could to get back in the game. And getting back in the game for me was being ready for next week.

Tina Quizon: Mark, I met you in 2012 and 2013 at the Sony Open and watching you in action has continued to inspire me. Thank you for speaking about this. I know it’s not easy.

PGA - Lingmerth IMG_1970 copy 3.jpgFirst time qualifier to the Hyundai Championships – David Lingmerth at the 2013 PGA Sony Open 

Tina Quizon: I had a question for Peter and for Frank. You have a lot of first‑time qualifiers playing these greens. What do you think some of the difficulties besides the tradewinds are going to be on this golf course?

   PETER JACOBSEN: To me, you got it right, it’s the grain on the greens. First of all, it’s the slope of the greens, and then you add that to the grain. The first‑time players are simply going to be amazed at how much the putts break on these greens and I think one in particular is No. 10.

When you hit your tee shot up the hill and you’re only left with a short iron to the green and the wind is usually from right‑to‑left, I can just feel the wind right now. I can see myself standing on that fairway hitting that approach shot. The pin is all usually in the left half of the green.

When you’re putting downhill, downgrain, downwind, it is so fast, and if you happen to leave the ball sort of the hole, you might have a 10‑footer and it breaks ten to 15 feet from right‑to‑left. So in hearing Mark say Jordan is getting there today, and to get his preparation started, I would imagine that there are quite a few of the first‑time players going to be making early arrivals just so they can learn the nuance of the golf course. Wind is one; in fact, it’s probably the most important thing.

But then the slope of the fairways and the slope of the green. You have to hit a lot of cuts into the fairways that slope from right‑to‑left and, you have to play a lot of draws to the fairways that slope from left‑to‑right. You’ve got to work the ball into these greens. It takes a lot of local knowledge and it took me quite a few years of playing there before ‑‑ I don’t think you can ever say you conquered the golf course but you understand the golf course.

So that’s the nuance that is really going to be fun to watch for the first‑timers in this event.

FRANK NOBILO: First of all, Tina, congratulations on your recovery, too.

To Peter’s point, and I think Mark referenced it with the caller earlier: These young kids have got to watch this event on TV, so much, even things like EA SPORTSTM. So the experience they get is going to make them a better player one way or the other, irrespective of how they finish up at the end of the week. And that’s really what determines play going forward, how quickly they learn and make amends for their mistakes.

The hardest thing, really, for them is getting the right wind. We have had a couple of years, I think, Mark, was it two years ago, three years ago, the wind blew for four days in the other direction.

So therefore, being a first‑timer would actually be no disadvantage. If the tradewinds kick in, then there’s always an advantage for people coming back for another year or for players that have played there several times. It’s not that different to playing an Open Championship that’s a true links course where the wind kicks in and you’re just hoping you are playing your practice rounds how it’s going to play during the tournament. It’s a fun experience.

But going back to Mark’s point a little earlier: I think the fact that these kids are exposed, like all the kids, they are really good players; to be exposed to the golf course, by whatever form of media, makes them better prepared now.

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