AUSTIN, Texas (Nov. 3, 2017) -- NBC/Golf Channel analyst and PGA Professional Mark Rolfing and his 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, were the first co-recipients of the Distinguished Service Award.
The Rolfings were honored Thursday evening at the Austin Hilton in Austin, Texas, in conjunction with the PGA of America’s 101st Annual Meeting. They were joined on stage by several of their “Angel Babies,” whom they have fostered and placed in homes across the country.
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.
Rolfing praised the PGA of America for “taking the step to recognize something different. This is what distinguished service means. Tonight, is one of the highlights of my life.”
In 1990, Debi Rolfing paved a path for her and her husband to become licensed foster parents, “Thank you for embracing foster care. One child at a time, we can find them homes,” she said.
Following Mark’s brief professional playing career, Debi and Mark moved to Maui, Hawaii in 1976 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 where Rolfing and Debi 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 – who do not have biological children – 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 Rolfing 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.
A native of Evanston, Illinois, and raised in DeKalb, Mark is a 1971 graduate of DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. 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.
PGA DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD RECIPIENTS
1988 Herb Graffis
1989 Bob Hope
1991 The Hon. Gerald R. Ford
1992 Gene Sarazen
1993 Byron Nelson
1994 Arnold Palmer
1995 Patty Berg
1996 Frank Chirkinian
1997 The Hon. George H.W. Bush
1998 Paul Runyan
1999 Bill Dickey
2000 Jack Nicklaus
2001 Mark McCormack
2002 Tim Finchem
2003 Vince Gill
2004 Pete Dye
2005 Wally Uihlein
2006 Fred Ridley
2007 Jack Burke Jr.
2008 Dennis Walters
2009 William Powell
2010 Billy Casper
2011 Larry Nelson
2012 Dave Stockton
2013 Lee Trevino
2014 The Hon. William J. Clinton
2015 Deane Beman
2017 Mark and Debi Rolfing