Bob Parsons often sounds more like a pro wrestler doing good publicity than a billionaire entrepreneur, but there’s enthusiasm and honesty in every word. From his recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder to his love of golf, the former Marine is used to leading the conversation.
A Baltimore native, he made his first tech fortune as the founder and former CEO of online giant GoDaddy. Now the owner of everything from motorcycle dealerships to an extensive real estate portfolio, Parsons, 71, revels in building his PXG (Parsons Xtreme Golf) project into an elite equipment manufacturer famous for making some of the best clubs in the game to build.
Meanwhile, his Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation supports charities large and small. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the group reports that it has awarded more than 440 grants to 140 nonprofits to date. The Parsons Foundation supports causes by offering college scholarships to dreamers, young immigrants brought to the country as undocumented children and treating veterans with PTSD, supporting LGBT organizations, and funding services for inner-city youth.
For the first ten years, the foundation donated an average of $1 million every 15 days. Last year, that amount increased to $1 million every 13 days. As Parsons puts it, his greatest mission remains to “come into this world poor as a church mouse, and go out just the same.”
A Veteran’s Perspective
Recent breakthroughs in treating veterans with PTSD with psychedelic drugs have attracted much of Parsons’ attention in recent years.
“I was suffering from PTSD when I came home wounded from the Vietnam War
for decades,” says Parsons. “That cost me time. It cost me relationships. The only way to get through it all was through work.”
Parsons remembers reading How to change your mind by Michael Pollan in 2018. The book explores the history, uses, and potential benefits of psychedelics – a world in which the retired soldier had no experience.
His wife connected him to a group that discreetly treats veterans with psychedelics to lessen the effects of PTSD. After a four-day therapeutic regimen that included treatment with ayahuasca, mushrooms, and LSD, he emerged a different man.
“People couldn’t believe the change I made,” says Parsons. “I heard, ‘He’s not as intense… he’s nicer… he’s more relaxed… he’s listening to me now.’ And that’s how I was before the war. More than 50 years after Vietnam I finally came home.”
To date, Parsons estimates donations to support research at $8 million. “I want to do everything in my power to help these drugs get approved for therapeutic use.”
A twist on golf
With the devastation of PTSD behind him and resources dedicated to helping other veterans heal, Parsons devotes much of his time to PXG and his growing influence in the golfing world.
He’s teamed up with pro golfer Mike Nicolette to do something he feels is lacking in big brands: devote resources to improving their products.
“I’ve always been an avid golfer and spent a lot of money on clubs,” says Parsons. “I’ve always realized that good gear can make a difference…I offered Nicolette the money he needed and as much time as he felt was needed to get the job done.”
In 2022, as the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation celebrates its first decade, Parsons insists the initial motivation for the effort was to support local organizations that make a difference but weren’t glamorous.
“It all boils down to one simple idea, brother: if you have the chance to take care of someone, you should take the opportunity.”
This article appeared in the June 2022 issue of penta Magazine.