One in a weekly series of stories about golf gear to run each Wednesday.
Once a Marine, always a Marine. I learned this truth when I interviewed a veteran a few months back and referred to him as an “ex-Marine.” He quickly corrected me.
“There are no ex-Marines,” he said matter-of-factly. “Just Marines.”
Sir, yes, sir. Understood, sir.
The Marine Corps is a brotherhood. It’s a commitment for life. I filed that information away for future use.
So here I am writing about another Marine, Bob Parsons. He’s 68, a half-century removed from when he enlisted in the Marines and earned a Purple Heart in Vietnam as a rifleman.
Parsons has led quite a life as a civilian, founding GoDaddy.com, an Internet domain-name registrar and web-hosting service, and turning it into an empire that arose from the ashes of the dot.com-bubble meltdown. He sold his stake in GoDaddy, and his estimated net worth reportedly exceeds $2.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine. Now, he’s pursuing one of his passions, golf, with his uniquely high-end golf equipment company, PXG – Parsons Xtreme Golf. (Chevys and motorcycles are two of his other passions, by the way.)
After all that success, Parsons hasn’t forgotten how to salute. He’s still a Marine. In April, he started PXG For Heroes, a program that provides discounts of 50-60 percent on a large selection of PXG equipment for veterans of all military branches and first responders.
This little-publicized discount comes in handy because, since PXG launched, some critics joked that the X stands for Xtreme Xpense. When the clubs debuted in 2015, a full set of 14 custom-fit clubs cost more than $5,000, and a complete set of the original 0311 irons went for $2,800. With the Heroes discount, a veteran can get the irons for about $1,200.
Parsons obviously isn’t going for affordable. The new 0311 Gen2 clubs are out now, and those irons start at $400 apiece (www.PXG.com). His goal is to make the absolute best clubs in golf, whatever the cost. The Heroes discount, one of the small ways he says thanks, brings his high-priced clubs into reach for vets.
“I owe everything I have ever accomplished to the Marine Corps,” Parsons has said, “so I make it a point to honor my military roots.”
The 0311 irons are so-named because that’s the Marine Corps specialty code number for rifle infantry.
PXG is not alone in honoring the military.
TaylorMade Golf offers veterans a 15 percent discount on purchases.
Ping has a Thank You Troops Military Rebate that includes $30 off a G400 driver; $20 off a G400 fairway wood; a $10 discount per iron on an array of current models; and $15 off several Ping putters. Ping also distributes golf clubs to military bases around the world for recreational use.
Veterans get a 15-percent discount on Callaway Golf equipment, and the company has been sending balls and clubs to military bases since 2008. It also hosts fittings for wounded warriors at PGA Tour events and has thus far outfitted 110 wounded vets with new Callaway gear.
Titleist does not offer a specific military discount, but it ships thousands of golf balls and hundreds of clubs to troops stationed overseas and donates equipment for select military-related golf tournaments, plus makes a major annual financial and product donation to Folds of Honor, a charity that helps families of soldiers.
It’s all good. The deep discount from Parsons on PXG’s original gear remains unmatched.
One Morning Read subscriber wrote in to describe his PXG For Heroes experience:
“Since I was in the Army in the late 1960s, I was eligible. I’d been thinking about PXG clubs for a couple of years, but I didn’t think it was economically practical to spend $375 per iron or $800 for a driver. After providing proof of military service, I bought a PXG 5-wood plus a 52- and 58-degree wedge for $125 a club. The driver was $295, about $100 cheaper than other top-line drivers.
“They have an online fitting process… There was no extra cost for the shafts or customizing. These are not pre-owned clubs. They are brand-spanking new. Pro shops that schedule Demo Days for PXG won’t promote the PXG For Heroes program. It is a direct purchase from PXG, so there’s nothing in it for the club professional… I got my clubs in less than two weeks.”
It seems like a pretty sweet deal for veterans and first responders, even if not all of the equipment is PXG’s latest and greatest. It’s a way to give some veterans an opportunity to try quality equipment from a company founded by a veteran. Everybody wins here.
Yes, it seems like strange timing on the part of Parsons. He’s building a golf brand in the teeth of an industry-wide downturn – I’d call it a recession trending toward depression, but nobody in the golf business wants to hear that. He’s not trying to sell the most clubs or get the No. 1 market share; he’s trying to make the No. 1 clubs, quality-wise, to satisfy himself. His approach, with a different goal, kind of reminds me of the late Ely Callaway in the 1990s.
Does that make Parsons a rogue or a maverick, as he has been called? I wouldn’t call him that. I’d call him smart. In almost any product category, best usually works.
I’d call him successful, crafty and focused. I’d also call him “Sir.” He’s a Marine for life.
Gary Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980 for Sports Illustrated and Golf.com, Golf World and The Milwaukee Journal. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GaryVanSickle