Fore Part

Renee Parsons credits the strong work ethic she learned growing up in Mount Pleasant with helping to build one of golf’s top equipment and apparel companies. // Photos courtesy of PXG
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Renee Parsons
Michigan native Renee Parsons worked in the hospitality industry before eventually heading up PXG’s golf apparel line.

Renee Parsons is the president and executive creative director of PXG Apparel, a thriving division of PXG. Based in Scottsdale, Ariz., it’s a global manufacturing company that designs, markets, and sells an extensive line of custom-fitted golf clubs, apparel, and accessories.

“I love fashion and I love golf, and I felt there was a huge opportunity in the golf space to create fashion-forward designs that fit well, but are also flattering, edgy, and fun — especially for women,” Parsons says.

It may be hard to believe, but one of Parsons’ first jobs as a young girl growing up in Mount Pleasant wasn’t in the pro shop at a tony suburban golf course, but at a local restaurant, where she performed a task that haunts her to this day.

Golf club
Parsons’ husband, Bob, launched Parsons Xtreme Golf, or PXG, in 2013. The company, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., secured more than 750 patents for its golf clubs and equipment.

“They made me clean up the coney pans,” she practically shrieks, and then dissolves into laughter. “Back then you had to clean them by hand. It was all stuck and dried on the edges, so you had to get in there with your soapy water and your tools, and it didn’t smell very good. I can still smell it.”

As Parsons reflects on her upbringing, she explains she wasn’t so much spending her time dressing up dolls as she was being a tomboy.

“I grew up on Glenwood Drive, just a couple blocks away from Mount Pleasant High School, where I would eventually go,” Parsons recalls. “It was a fun neighborhood, with a lot of kids. Most of the kids my age at the time were boys, so I was a tomboy, running around with them on our bicycles and playing different games.”

But a strong work ethic was always an integral part of her upbringing.

“I certainly grew up in an entrepreneurial household,” she says. “My dad was a small-business person. He was his own boss. He ran restaurants and eventually some hotels, and got into real estate. One of his restaurants was The Pixie in Mount Pleasant, which my grandfather opened in 1945.”

Which is where Parsons toiled on those restaurant coney pans.

“I think my dad must have told my boss to treat me like everybody else,” Parsons laughs. “(My boss) didn’t go easy on me. But it taught me a lot of important lessons — certainly a work ethic, being part of a team, and no job is too big or too small.”

Parsons’ mother worked, too. “She was a stay-at-home mom, but then she actually owned her own business for a time — which, funny enough, was a women’s apparel boutique. I worked there, too, when I was between 10 and 12 years old. Not as a sales associate, by any means, but I would help out.”

Parsons may well have caught the fashion bug while helping out at her mom’s store, but that wasn’t the path she followed right away.

“I was in high school when Junior Achievement started in our community,” she recalls. “I signed right up for that. I was the treasurer, and so it really taught me basic accounting, how to keep the books, and things like that.”

When it was time for Parsons to attend college, there really wasn’t a choice. “My dad and mom both went to Central Michigan University and so, honestly, the prevailing thought back then was, well, it’s a good school and you should go there. So it was more (because of) that than it was my decision.”

There were several advantages to staying local, she admits.

“My freshman year I lived at home, and I joined a sorority my sophomore year,” she says. “Then I moved into an apartment with friends and had a real college experience. At that time, my family opened some hotels and I worked in them and really found that exciting. I majored in hospitality and what they called commercial recreation, and then pursued a career in hospitality.”

Her career began in Chicago in 1991 and, for the next 10 years, Parsons worked her way up the corporate ladder at a series of large hospitality groups. In 2001, she returned to Michigan to oversee sales for six of her family’s hotels. In 2004 she was on the move again, to Scottsdale, to work for the Starwood Hotel Group.

Three years later, destiny stepped in when a friend asked her if she’d be interested in meeting a mutual friend on a blind date.

“I said, ‘Sure.’ I’m in sales, so meeting somebody is no big deal,” she says. “I did that every day. I was single, and I’d been on blind dates before. So I said, ‘Tell me about your friend,’ and (my friend) says, ‘His name is Bob Parsons. Just Google him.’ And I was like, what?”

Searching the internet, her first impression was memorable, to say the least. “There’s this picture of Bob sitting on a motorcycle, and there are these women next to him in GoDaddy tank tops. And I’m like, what the hell?”

Renee’s blind date was a Marine veteran, a Purple Heart recipient, and entrepreneur who in 1984 started his first business, Parsons Technology, in his basement. Ten years later, Parsons Technology was sold to Intuit Inc. for $64 million. From there, the entrepreneur launched what would soon become GoDaddy, an internet domain registrar and web hosting company.

“I found him highly engaging, super charming, and charismatic,” Renee reveals. “We had a great evening, and that’s where it started.”

GoDaddy was on its way to becoming the world’s largest domain registrar, thanks in large part to the unique commercials it began airing during a series of Super Bowls, all featuring an innovative and persuasive marketing technique — the GoDaddy girls wearing those tank tops.

“Obviously the marketing tactics frankly put them on the map,” Renee says matter-of-factly. “Love it or hate it, it worked.”

But Bob wanted to bolster other aspects of his company’s operations.

“They didn’t have a booking department so they could consolidate events,” Renee explains. “They were booking lots of meetings and events, but it was very ad hoc and not centralized. Bob convinced me to come over, and I organized the events and meetings department, and consolidated all the contracts for the company and its external vendors.
“From there, my role at GoDaddy continued to develop until eventually I took over all community giving within the company. In 2010, I established GoDaddy Cares, which was the community arm for all GoDaddy philanthropic gifting.”

After dating for three years, Renee and Bob were married in the fall of 2009, and their union seemed to have an immediate impact on the success of the digital company.

From 2009 to 2010, GoDaddy’s sales increased by 25 percent, to $947 million, and its sales projection for 2011 was $1.1 billion, according to the Los Angeles Times. Sensing it was a good time to sell, Bob unloaded a majority stake in GoDaddy to a group of private equity firms in a deal valued at $2.3 billion in July 2011.

“He still kept a stake, but he got out of the day-to-day running of it,” Renee says.

That meant her husband had some time on his hands — but not for long.

The man who unabashedly describes himself as an incurable golf nut purchased The Golf Club Scottsdale in 2013, followed soon after by the acquisition of the adjoining 223-acre Sierra Reserve.

He and Renee, who live in Scottsdale, promptly expanded what had been one clubhouse and an 18-hole golf course into Scottsdale National Golf Club, a private, invitation-only retreat with two clubhouses, 45 holes, and all the expected amenities, including fine dining, various spa experiences, and luxurious accommodations.

Golf models
Renee Parsons serves as president and executive creative director of PXG Apparel. The 2023 summer line, as shown by two fashion models, includes apparel, bags, totes, and accessories.

Excelling at the game itself proved another challenge for Bob. Frustrated because he couldn’t find a set of clubs that felt comfortable in his hands, he launched Parsons Xtreme Golf, better known as PXG, with a specific mandate to “design and develop the finest golf clubs ever played” — along with a blank check to ensure he got the results he wanted.

While Bob and his team secured more than 750 patents to create what they maintain are the best possible golf clubs and equipment, Renee focused on developing and marketing a golf apparel line.

“From 2012 to 2018, I was project managing various construction and design ventures simultaneously, which included Scottsdale National, as well as personal properties in Scottsdale, Hawaii, and Colorado,” she says. “As these projects wrapped up, I decided to establish the PXG Apparel and Accessories lines, to accompany PXG Equipment.

“The following and the passion for the brand was already so strong, and people loved the logo,” she says. “We already did headwear, and that was highly successful. We knew PXG wasn’t a flash in the pan, and wasn’t going anywhere, so there was definitely an opportunity we saw in expanding the brand into soft goods.”

Still, it took some time for the apparel line to gain traction. “When we started, we virtually zeroed out,” she says. “I mean, revenue was less than $2 million. But then in those early years, we basically doubled our revenue, year after year.”

When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, the Parsons were concerned, like every business, that stay-at-home orders and other restrictions would affect their revenue and operations.
“Golf actually took off even more,” Parsons asserts. “We sold direct on our website, and people loved what we were doing. So we doubled our revenue again in those years.”
In 2022, PXG Apparel sales jumped by more than 50 percent from the previous year, outpacing growth in the golf apparel industry — largely driven by its line of women’s apparel.

PXG currently has 23 brick-and-mortar stores in the country, including on West Maple Road in Troy, but Renee is most proud of the foundation she and Bob formed in 2012.
“After exiting GoDaddy, it was an organic transition for me to establish The Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation with my husband. We had the contacts and the ability to give and make a difference in a significant way.

“Our goal was to reach economically disadvantaged and underserved populations, as well as marginalized communities and causes (that are) often overlooked or underfunded by mainstream philanthropy. To this day, we still support most of the organizations that we established relationships with during that time.”

Since its inception, the foundation has given away almost $273 million and provided some 500 grants. The organization also works to assist critically wounded veterans.

Not too bad for a young kid who earned her chops scouring coney pans way back when.
“I think back to my days of working at The Pixie as one of the greatest learning experiences. It instilled in me a strong work ethic and laid the foundation for how I’ve moved forward as a professional throughout my career.

“So the short answer is yes,” she continues, “I certainly attribute my work ethic to growing up a Michigander and the responsibilities, discipline, and accountability that my family instilled in me at a young age.

“Just being surrounded by people who are honest and hard-working really shaped my perspective on how I communicate in business. I take this wherever I go and into any business venture I go into, and I’m continuing to work because I love it and I’m passionate about what I do.”