Bob Parsons: The eccentric man behind PXG clubs

By Rex HoggardJanuary 20, 2016, 12:15 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Littered across the walls of Bob Parsons’ well-appointed office is the history of a life fully lived.

From the Purple Heart medal he was awarded after being injured while on patrol in Vietnam to the faded computer – complete with floppy drive – he used to develop his first accounting program, Parsons’ office, which is located behind one of his numerous motorcycle dealerships, is a reflection of a man who wears many hats.

Parsons is a U.S. Marine, accountant, self-taught computer programmer, domain hosting trailblazer, ordained minister, billionaire and, now, golf club manufacturer.

How influential Parsons may become at the latter remains to be seen. Opinions range from the mastermind behind the domain empire being the modern incarnation of Ely Callaway to a golf junkie – he spent over $350,000 in 2015 on golf clubs – who is in over his head.

Either way, the 65-year-old is committed to Parsons Xtreme Golf (PXG), the golf club manufacturing startup which roared onto the PGA Tour landscape earlier this month when the company announced it had signed endorsement deals with the likes of Zach Johnson, Billy Horschel, Charles Howell III and James Hahn.

Parsons’ vision for PXG is one that is unrivaled in the golf industry.

“It wasn’t, ‘Hey, you guys need to get this done within the next two or three months.’ I said, ‘You guys have as long as you need to get it done well. Spend as much money as you need to and we’ll use whatever process is the best process.’ That’s what they had to launch from,” Parsons told last month.

To that end, he hired some of the industry’s top talent, including longtime Ping designers Brad Schweigert and Mike Nicolette, to develop an iron that looks and feels like a blade but performs like a cavity-back.

Asked earlier this month at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions if Parsons could play the role of “disrupter” in the golf industry, Johnson’s answer was telling.

“He could be, but in a good way,” the two-time major champion said. “He’s going to push the ceiling. I want that kind of person pushing a company that I’m involved with.”

Whether that translates to a successful business remains to be seen, but Parsons’ track record suggests he deserves the benefit of the doubt even in an industry that has been buffeted by economic headwinds for years.

After all, this is the same man who taught himself computer programing and transformed a business he began in his garage into a software giant he sold in 1994 for $64 million.

When Parsons, who grew up “poor as a church mouse” in Baltimore, Md., launched in 1997 his stated goal was, “to make a little money from a lot of people.” PXG, which began selling golf clubs last April, is the polar opposite.

At $300 an iron and $700 for a driver, a 14-club set will run about $5,000, nearly twice as much as a normal set of “performance clubs,” and PXG’s target audience is a relatively well-defined and affluent group.

“The market for this is much larger than anyone can even imagine,” Parsons said. “We’ve had people hit our clubs and say, ‘I’m going to start saving. We’ve had statistics we’ve looked at and golf buyer’s nature. To take the time you need to be able to afford to go to a club and pay the green fees, it’s nothing if you belong to a private club so if you’re looking at how many people are in that situation it’s at least a few million.”

Parsons explains that PXG, “won’t be attacking the competition directly,” a lesson he learned and has refined since his days as a Marine Corps rifleman – which is designated 0311 in USMC nomenclature and serves as the name of PXG’s first set of irons.

His Scottsdale, Ariz., office is dotted with reminders of his time in the Marines, and he pauses in front of a plaque that includes the Purple Heart medal to reflect on what he learned while serving.

“I went to college and graduated magna cum laude at the University of Baltimore. I would never have done that without them,” he said.

Although he considers himself a “misplaced accountant,” he admits his true calling is in marketing and a mind that is naturally drawn to shattering barriers and plowing through stop signs.

It was one of those trailblazing moments that made Parsons a household name in 2005 when he created a risqué advertisement to air during the Super Bowl that included a now-famous “wardrobe malfunction.”

Under pressure from the NFL, Fox pulled the second airing of the same ad, which was scheduled to be broadcast during the two-minute warning, and the resulting media storm produced untold exposure for

“Instead of our ad showing, what happens is much more acceptable to America. There’s a Fox ad for the “Simpsons” and Homer stabbing a baby. You can stab a baby, but lord you can’t have a tank-top strap pop,” Parsons said.

Parsons, who according to the 2015 Forbes 400 is worth $2.1 billion, said golf consumers can expect a similar cutting edge in PXG’s media campaigns, with the initial print advertisements referring to the company’s products as the “duck’s nuts.”

“What we have in our ad that you’ll never see in another golf ad, we have a warning that says, ‘Our clubs are amazing but expensive.’ It explains why they’re expensive,” Parsons said.

In fact, PXG’s Tour staff, which ballooned to a dozen players on the PGA and LPGA tours with this month’s announcement, is a rare nod to the status quo for Parsons, yet even his move into the endorsement landscape came with a signature Parsons moment.

“There is a rumor going around that most of those players I paid them a lot more money than they were making before, that’s not true. Most of them are getting less than what they were making before,” he explains.

“When I was a young man and I started to date, my dad gave me a tip, he called me Robert not Bob, and he said, ‘Robert, the No. 1 thing you want to look for in a girlfriend, the most important thing is you want one that likes you.’”

The golf world got a glimpse of Parsons’ unique, albeit somewhat autocratic, personality in 2014 after he’d purchased Scottsdale National Golf Club, a decision he made after flirting with the idea of buying an NFL franchise (he was leaning toward the Oakland Raiders).

In a letter sent to members Parsons wrote, “Currently our members who use the club the most support the club the least. In fact, many members who are at the club each and every day spend nothing and do not support the club at all. This will not continue.”

Scottsdale National Golf Club

Parsons went on to offer the club’s 175 members a “resignation opportunity,” with full refunds paid to those who didn’t care for the future he envisions for the club, which includes a redesign of the original 18 holes, a new 18-hole layout and what he describes as the “bad little nine.”

Nearly 40 percent reportedly accepted the offer. Although no one was willing to speak with on the record regarding the buyout, one source familiar with the situation said the membership welcomed Parsons’ improvements to an already well-maintained golf course if not his totalitarian approach to running the facility.

Although Parsons declined to talk about membership issues, he did say he’s not trying to create another Augusta National, just a place he can be proud of.

“It was the perfect thing for me knowing that I love golf and I got my own place,” he said. “We can make this as fine as we made the golf equipment and all the other business ventures we’re in. It was just no question.”

It’s that unique business model, and Parsons’ refusal to yield to convention, that now threaten to shake up a game mired in participation declines and saddled with an elitist history.

Whether Parsons’ ambitious mandate is the answer is already a topic of much debate, but he seems to sense the impact his performance-driven approach, regardless of cost, could have on the industry.

“What we have shown is what can be done if you think differently and what I would expect is the other companies, they are all very well run, but I think if they aren’t paying attention now you’ll see their product improve as well,” Parsons said.

Parsons is many things – philanthropist, risk-taker, marketing maverick – but if his introduction to the golf industry is any indication he is not timid.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

Getty Images

McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

Getty Images

Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

Getty Images

Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.