Kapalua kicks off 2011 Hyundai TOC in good fashion

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While the same names who have brought us so many great years of championship golf at Kapalua continue to be the face of the resort’s famed PGA Tour season-opening event—namely Gary Planos, Nancy Cross, and Karin Sagar—there is no denying that something new, something different is in the air, and that, my friends, is Mark Rolfing.

He’s left an indelible mark (no pun intended) on Hawaii’s golf scene, and it was he who truly built Kapalua’s brand to be what it is—golf’s best. I’m not in any way trying to take away anything from longtime head honcho, Gary Planos, but Rolf made the name, and Gary was its steward. Big difference. I couldn’t avoid Mark Rolfing during today’s opening festivities. He was cooler toward me than I have ever remembered. I imagine he has a few things on his mind: like what is going on in real time, what the staff is doing, how the flow of things feels, and the enormity of it all. He’s done it for decades, but I’m sure he still feels Kapalua butterflies in his tummy during the first few hours of the first day, which was today.

With Mark back in the fold, for the first time in years, Kapalua turned its focus from the Joe Torres and the Alice Coopers of the world and instead rolled out the red carpet for the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association. I don’t think they ever did as much as they did today to give the HSJGA such a good turn, and I think the association is mutually beneficial—helping a humbled Kapalua too, as it has been in recent years….

Here was retired LPGA Tour player and HSJGA co-founder, Mary Bea Porter-King, on the first tee today, working a crowd that was ignorant of who she was, but selflessly continuing her mission to spearhead what might be the most innovative and complete junior golf system any state in the U.S. has ever seen…. There she was, helping Mark Rolfing to resuscitate Kapalua’s heavy lungs, like that child she saved from drowning back in ’98 whilst in the midst of playing an LPGA event. Mary Bea: a multi-tasker of the highest order, on the first tee at Kapalua. Beautiful. Really.

I don’t recall the junior golf tie-in, the signage, the event’s visibility, or the fact that the week is totally free being so prominent in my memory of years before. They just didn’t do it as well without him. The work of Mark Rolfing, and that of his very smart and able team (probably led by none other than Margaret Santos—Rolf’s go-to person for anything and everything done right) is just a few notches better than anything anyone else can do. I have nothing but songs of praise for Mark Rolfing. Some people are just plain gifted. Mark is one of those people. I think we here on Maui, and in Hawaii, are lucky to have him.

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