There used to be a junior event in Southern California called The MacGregor Cup Matches. It pitted the best players from all the chapters, and almost 30 years ago there was a clash of the titans. A virtual “Celebrity Death Match” of golf.
It was Phil Mickelson and Harry Rudolph (another great junior player from San Diego who had a similar success on the Web.com Tour that I did) against Bob May (for those who don’t remember, he had a great struggle with Tiger at the 2000 PGA) and door No. 4: namely me.
We were teenagers. I was the oldest, but the least accomplished of the four, which was not a disgrace as these were three of the greatest players in the history of junior golf in Southern California. I will just say, Phil was acting like a punk and it started on the very first tee.
“Harry, you don’t even have to play, I can beat these guys by myself,” he said.
That sounds like a playful boast among competitors, but it was obvious to the three of us, it was not — and that “‘tude” continued without relent. By the third or forth hole it was so bad, even Harry was becoming annoyed. We then began discussing a subject that was not golf related.
I won’t reveal the subject matter, but let’s just say it was something that is at the forefront of the minds of teenage boys and this time, Phil was the least accomplished. OK, fine, it was teenage girls and Phil was a bit of a dork at the time and not likely to be suave with the ladies.
Trying to fit into the discussion, Phil made — how do I put this? — a faux pas. Well, the three of us sensed weakness and jumped on him without remorse and it continued through the turn. By this time, Phil was walking down opposite side the fairway by himself and was crying.
The funniest part was that he was still lighting it up on the scorecard, and despite some exceptional play from Mr. May and myself, we lost.
I did not see Phil after that for about six or seven seven years.
The question begs:
“Monte, why are you telling this story about Phil? Are you trying to make yourself look cool that you had the upper hand on one of the all time greats because you had a little more experience with teenage girls.”
No, that is not why. At best it could be said I was just as afraid of girls as he was at the time, but I was just a little funnier and drove a fancier car. I tell this story because I am a huge fan of Phil and have been ever since he has been on Tour and this story is at the heart of why.
A few years ago, athletes of several sports were polled about which athlete in their own sport is the biggest jerk and most hated by his peers. To no one’s surprise, Terrell Owens topped the list. It surprised many that Phil was also on the list — the only golfer who made it. He has a nickname on the PGA Tour among many players and caddies who don’t care for him, FIGJAM, which stands for “(Expletive) I’m Good, Just Ask Me,” and I don’t get the animus.
Now back to my experience. Throughout the 90s, I lived at PGA West in La Quinta, where some famous rounds of the Bob Hope were played. One year I was hitting balls on the range because I was getting a sponsor exemption into the Bob Hope (it was later given to Mac O’Grady before the tournament started, but that is a story for another time) and here comes Phil walking right toward me. He was the new star on Tour and the darling of all the fans.
“Monte, how are you?” he asked.
“Good Phil, thanks,” I said.
“Congratulations on winning the long drive championship, how’s the rest of your game doing? Hoping to see you out here soon,” Phil said.
“Thank you, I am hoping to be out here soon too,” I said. “Um, Phil, forgive me for saying so, but I am surprised you are talking to me, since the last time I saw you, Bobby, Harry and I weren’t very nice to you.”
“Nah, I was being a punk and I deserved it, good luck this week,” he said.
I saw him a few more times after that and he went out of his way to say hello and encourage my progress to join him on the Tour. It is the opinion of this golfer that Phil is a class act and many of his peers don’t like him because he does what he wants and doesn’t care what other people think. The number of fans that love and root for him is second only to Tiger.
He is always there for the media, the autograph seekers and pro-am partners. The same cannot be said for many of the other Tour stars. Even though I was a player myself, I am still a fan of golf. And I put Phil’s first major victory at Augusta as one of favorite golf moment as a fan.
It was a long time coming, and for all he has done and continues to do for golf, he deserves it.
On Spec: Winners’ WITBs and my week in golf
The original 0311
In the first episode of “The Disruptors,” GolfWRX’s new video series with PXG, Johnny Wunder sits down with company founder Bob Parsons for an in-depth talk about Parsons’ background and got into the golf equipment business.
The Bob I know
I’ll start by saying this: Bob Parsons has a stigma attached to him. With every move he makes or idea he pushes, many people think: Rich guy. No perspective. Who does he think he is?
I also need to say this (whether you believe it or not): This is not a puff piece. This is my honest perspective as I have experienced. Until 30 days ago, I didn’t have one PXG club in my bag and have never been given favor from PXG to “make them look good.”
OK, that’s out of the way, so you know what isn’t the motivation here. The motivation is to describe my relationship with Bob, so the golf community knows exactly who he is, why he is so important, and why we don’t want him to ever go away.
I first met Bob Parsons on December 11th, 2007 on the set of the first commercial I ever booked as an actor. It was for GoDaddy.com, and it was a Super Bowl ad that was later banned and became a “cult classic” for years to come. On the set of that commercial, Bob showed up before principal photography began and walked up to every person on that set (100 people) and personally introduced himself and thanked them for the hard work. When I met and I told him my name, he said in a way only Bob can, “Johnny Wunder!? I’ll never forget that name, that’s a no brainer.”
Fast forward to March of 2018 and PXG’s initial launch of the GEN2 irons. Before our interview was set up, I was reintroduced to him, and he said “Johnny Wunder!? THE Johnny Wunder? I know that name. We have met. I never forget a name.” I explained how we met and he started to laugh, “I may forget a face, Johnny, but I’d never forget a name like that.”
Since then, I have interviewed Bob four times and been his guest during product launches. NOBODY does hospitality like Bob. NOBODY. You are inside the bubble, and you are well taken care of but also respected to the utmost degree. He understands the job we in the media have and will give you everything he can to make the experience worthwhile. Yes, Bob has a larger-than-life on-camera persona. It’s big, funny, gregarious, and to some, intimidating. Bob off camera is a bit of a different thing. He’s a thoughtful, quiet man that will ask about your kids far before he asks what you think about his products.
I recall a morning he called me personally to ask me a question, it was a Saturday, if memory serves, and when I picked up the phone and realized it was him, I had to kind of laugh. Not at him but at his first few comments
- Apologized for interrupting my family’s Saturday morning
- Asked how my family was doing and if the kids were fans of golf
- Asked how I was doing beyond work and what I was planning for the rest of the year
These were real questions from a man that REALLY cares. Care is the key word here. I’ll get to that in a moment. After the call was done, he thanked me and wanted to make sure I told my wife that he apologized for stealing me away (if only for a few minutes) from my family on a Saturday morning.
This is not Bob selling me. This is Bob.
The message here is that Bob cares, immensely, about improving the conditions of those he can. Yes his clubs are expensive. Get past that. Yes he has a ton of cash. Get past that. Yes his persona is BIG. Get past that. He spun the industry on its head by introducing and selling clubs that were “too expensive.” “He will never make it” was something I hear a lot. Well that idea is now put to bed as PXG, leading with its strong chin, made it OK to spend a lot of money on golf clubs. He paved the way for bespoke companies like Artisan, Tyson Lamb, National Custom Works to charge premium prices for custom gear. I think any gearhead on GolfWRX could find a way to be thankful for that one…just for the Instagram pictures alone.
The interview accompanying this article will give you just a glimpse as to who Bob really is. He came from nothing. He built this. He dug it outta the dirt. He is the American Dream walking and talking. No one gave him anything. In this day and age, I honor that narrative. I respect the hell out of it, and I want my kids to see men and woman like this.
It’s the real “meat on the table” that Bob has. You can’t learn this in school, you have to learn it by trying and failing A LOT. PXG is something he built. He didn’t hire smart people to do his bidding, he hired smart people to learn from and get in the mud with. PXG clubs are the product of that collaboration. PXG clubs are not Bob, but they are a symbol of how much this guy cares about doing things differently. He’s a disruptor. He cares. That’s all that matters.
I hope you see what I see. Enjoy the interview.
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