NBC's Mark Rolfing launches new golf program following 'life-changing' rehab stint

By Leonard Shapiro
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, May 6, 2010

NBC Sports will televise the Players Championship from Ponte Vedra, Fla. for 10 hours this weekend, but there's also an intriguing 30-minute lead-in show to Saturday's golf telecast that deserves some attention, if only because of the stirring comeback story of the man who put it all together.

That would be Mark Rolfing, a former professional golfer as well as a longtime on-course analyst and occasional play-by-play man for the network's golf coverage who also will host "Global Golf Adventure," set this week in Bermuda. The premier show, which focused on golf in Hawaii and included an interview with Michelle Wie, aired before the Arnold Palmer event at Bay Hill in March, and two more are scheduled for NBC tournaments later this season, with six more planned for 2011.

It's part travelogue, focusing on a major golf destination, with player interviews as well as an instructional element that will be handled this week by 2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink.

In addition to developing the concept and the content, Rolfing also secured big-time corporate sponsorship to help pay for the production and to buy the time on the network.

The Bay Hill premier also marked a one-year anniversary of sorts for Rolfing, who had checked himself in to the Betty Ford Clinic in March 2009 to deal with alcohol-related issues.

"It's easy to say now that I didn't have that big a problem and that I'm not sure I needed to do it, but I did," Rolfing said. "It was definitely something I needed to do, and it was a life-changing experience for me. Looking back at my life, there was some serious analysis from the earliest age I can remember to the present. I had never really done that, and it opened my eyes to a lot of reasons for who I was."

Rolfing described his own problems as "hitting a major speed bump on the road that slowed me down. I'm very lucky that it wasn't a head-on crash. Could I be doing what I'm doing now as effectively if I hadn't gone through it? Absolutely not. It changed my focus, and my ability to focus."

Rolfing was somewhat reluctant to dwell on his rehabilitation program, though he did say that after leaving Betty Ford, he attended 90 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in 90 days, as recommended, and has now "found a system that works for me. I'm really happy with it. But not a day goes by when I don't think about the situation and then address it."

Rolfing said in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated that his own rehab experience has made him far more sympathetic toward Tiger Woods' off-the-course issues in recent months.

"I've got a much different view on what Tiger's going through," he said. "I know what you have to do and I've got great respect for what you have to do. It's not easy."

Why No Coverage?

What a pity that Lorena Ochoa's final tournament as a full-time player on the LPGA Tour was not televised in the U.S., or even streamed live on the internet less than two weeks after the No. 1 player in women's golf had announced her retirement from the sport.

Ochoa finished sixth in the Tres Marias event in Mexico on Sunday, seven shots behind the champion, Japan's Ai Miyazato. The tournament was never included as part of the LPGA's 16-event package with the Golf Channel, its only American television outlet. But for most of the two weeks leading up to the event, there were ongoing discussions between the cable network and the LPGA about getting weekend coverage on the air.

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