People you should know in golf: Bob Parsons

Golf Equipment

Meet the Vietnam war veteran who founded a multi-billion dollar software company before deciding to start making golf clubs...

Bob Parsons flunked high school, joined the marines to fight in Vietnam, studied as an accountant, taught himself to program computer software and then made a few billion dollars.

He founded GoDaddy.com which has over 70 percent worldwide market share for domain names and website-building software.

He also owns the largest Harley Davidson dealership in the world which has its own cinema and wedding chapel. He set up a foundation which has given over $127m to charity.

The 10-handicapper spent $350,000 on golf equipment before deciding to make his own.

Bob Parsons

Bob Parsons is not your average golf company owner. He’s not your average man. There is nothing average about him, his life or the golf clubs that he now makes.

He is the founder and owner of PXG (Parsons Xtreme Golf) – the super premium brand which kits out tour players such as Billy Horschel, Lydia Ko, Charl Schwartzel and Zach Johnson. They call themselves the PXG Troops. Fitting for a brand owned by a former marine.

The number stampings on the clubs seem to be military-inspired as well.

Bob Parsons

But how on earth did he get to where he is now? We met him during a media day at The Wisley him to find out. Strap yourselves in…

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. The area I grew up in was settled in by the cockney English so many of us have a very distinctive accent.

I’m sure we’ve changed it quite a bit since the cockneys settled there but anywhere we speak in the United States people say ‘you sound a little English’.

I grew up poor as a church rat. My mum and dad were blue collar workers, they were gamblers too. I can tell you they had no money because that’s how the game of chance works. But nevertheless I learned a lot from them. I learned fractions from when my mother showed me how to read the racing form.

Were you any good at school?

When I was in school, except for mathematics and fractions, I was a terrible student. I failed the fifth grade. But because of a fluke I didn’t have to repeat it. There was a clerical fluke and I somehow ended up going into the sixth grade.

When I was in my final year of high school I was failing most subjects except for gym and lunch – unfortunately lunch wasn’t graded.

I had two friends approach me in the locker room after gym they said they were going to talk to the US Marine Corps recruitment and asked me to come down with them.

The three of us joined the marines at the height of  the Vietnam war in 1968 and the recruiter said to me ‘you know we are going to have to check your high school grades, it’s not easy to get into the marine corps’.

I thought I’d never get in. But I took the tests and went back in three weeks and I was told I’d make a fine marine.

Bob Parsons

I took my orders to my teachers and they all gave me a passing grade so I owe my high school diploma to the marine corps. If any of you have a kid who is struggling in school the military might be a neat trick to get them through.

I went to Vietnam and served with the rifle company.

What did you do after Vietnam?

After a little period of time – I guess you’d call it inebriation – celebrating my new found freedom, I got a job at a steel mill in Baltimore.

After six months I decided I didn’t want to do that any more so I went to college. At that time there was a program for people who served in the military where your grades didn’t matter, you didn’t have to take the entrance exam. The government even paid your tuition.

I went to the University of Baltimore. They asked me what I wanted to major in, I didn’t know. I looked in the book and picked the first thing I came to – accounting.

Bob Parsons

I became an accountant. I like to think if I’d opened the book backwards I’d have been a zoologist.

How did you get into computers?

I became the US equivalent of a chartered accountant and did a number of jobs in the accounting area.

One time I was evaluating a company in California. I went to the book store at Stanford campus – this was 1975 where personal computers were just beginning. I bought a book on basic computer programming. It just so happened I had 12 hours to kill before the flight back.

Bob Parsons

I read the book and wrote my first computer program on that flight back to Baltimore which was about a five-hour flight.

We had a dummy terminal back at our offices which I could use to get the program to work. I used it to write programs and got it to do whatever I needed it to do for my job and it also became my hobby. I got rather good at it.

Part 2: The birth of GoDaddy.com – CLICK HERE

More information can be found on the PXG website

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