Ferd Lewis: Mark Rolfing and Michelle Wie West give Golf Channel all-Hawaii analyst combo

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Twenty years ago Mark Rolfing remembers interviewing junior golfer Michelle Wie, who was anything but awed in front of the cameras, on his “Golf Hawaii” TV show.

“She was about 10 or 11 and I asked her how good she thought she could be,” Rolfing recalls.

“And, she said, ‘as good as Tiger Woods.’ ”

Suddenly “precocious” became a word he would always associate with Wie.

This week Rolfing and the now 30-year old Michelle Wie West, a five-time winner on the LPGA Tour, will team up as on-site analysts for the Golf Channel’s “Live From …” coverage of the PGA Championship in San Francisco, where she now lives.

They will be teamed on Tuesday and Wednesday for three hours each day in what is believed to be the first time that two analysts from Hawaii have paired up to do one of golf’s majors for network TV.

“It is just amazing sometimes the way the world comes around full circle in golf, ” Rolfing said. “I mean, I’m (71), more than twice her age, and have seen her play golf from age 9. I’ve known the family for a long time.”

Theirs has always been a special island-style connection from the time he was “Uncle Mark,” as she referred to him while growing up in the TV spotlight. He dispensed inside tips and suggestions and provided support as she went about rapidly blazing her own, unique trail in the world of golf.

The Golf Channel had the idea of putting them together as analysts this year and they were to have been paired up for the entirety of The Players Championship in March and other tournaments. But COVID-19 intruded after their first broadcast, shutting down the PGA Tour.

The now, almost hermetically-sealed golf world they will broadcast from this week has changed dramatically in the intervening four-plus months as they will be reminded this weekend with multiple COVID-19 tests, social distancing, a course devoid of fans and a strict “PGA bubble” around the event at Harding Park.

Wie West’s universe has also changed on several other fronts with the arrival of her soon-to-be two-month-old daughter, Makenna Kamalei Yoona West, and being named an assistant captain of the U.S. Solheim Cup team.

Wie West, who has a maternity exemption during which she has had treatment and rest for her arthritic wrists, also hopes to get back on the course and play in the LPGA Championship in December after not having played a competitive event in more than a year.

For now, though, she is concentrating on her broadcast career. And Rolfing, a veteran of nearly 35 years in front of the camera, said she is as much of a quick-study in the booth as she was on the course. “I think she has been brilliant. A natural,” Rolfing said.

“She has a tremendous eye, she definitely understands the game and I think she is great (as) an analyst,” Rolfing said. “She knows the players from having played a lot of golf with them. When she was living in Florida she played with Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and some of those guys a lot.”

The association with Thomas loomed large as he was credited with being the matchmaker who brought Wie and Jonnie West, a Golden State Warriors executive, together resulting in their wedding last August.

How long the marriage of Wie West and the TV booth will last remains to be seen, but Rolfing said, “This is something she can be very, very good at if she decides to stick with it.”

Reach Ferd Lewis at [email protected] or 529-4820.


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