As was first reported by Jonathan Wall (Golf.com) and/or Brendan Porath (SBNation), Billy Horschel has parted ways with his equipment sponsor, PXG. On paper, the breakup appears amicable. PXG’s statement reads, “Billy has been a tremendous partner for the company since joining [our tour staff] in 2016. We are pleased and proud to have had him on staff and wish him nothing but the best in this new chapter.”
Horschel, who generally doesn’t need much encouragement to offer an opinion, has been mostly quiet, posting the following in response to a question on his Twitter account.
“Yes, no longer with PXG. Still playing some PXG clubs as of now.”
If there’s any lingering animosity, Horschel isn’t letting on – and least not publicly.
Where the situation gets more interesting and begs some additional digging is with the confirmed departures of Matt Rollins (PXG’s now-former Director of Tournament Player Relations) and Chez Reavie, who signed a multi-year deal with PXG in January of this year. PXG’s stable of tour players typically hovers between 8 and 10.
In these situations, the impulse is invariably to blame the equipment, but the more likely explanation is that Rollins was immensely popular with the players he helped bring onto the PXG staff. So whether it was out of loyalty to Rollins or some level of dissatisfaction with the particulars of why Rollins and PXG separated, the result is the same. Rollins is now longer with PXG and Horschel and Reavie followed suit.
The other uncomfortable reality is that if it were most any brand other than PXG, it probably wouldn’t be much of a story. At most, it might result in a tweet or two. But PXG remains a lightning rod where the opportunity for rational conversation hovers just north of zero.
While the behind the scenes stuff is often overlooked, in this case, it’s worth pointing out that Rollins is an industry veteran who, by all accounts, is well-respected by colleagues and players. He brings several decades of experience, which allowed him to build up a cache of trust with tour staff the old-fashioned way – he earned it. (When contacted by MyGolfSpy, Rollins declined to comment.)
Before joining PXG in 2015, Rollins held the same position at PING and was the go-to equipment guy for players like Bubba Watson, Lee Westwood, and Hunter Mahan. As in most any endeavor, relationships are vital in creating a successful enterprise. If the player-caddie dynamic is the most important, the relationship tour players have with equipment and tour operations staff is almost certainly a close second.
The loss of Reavie barely two months into his deal suggests that Rollins was integral in the recruiting process that pulled Reavie away from TaylorMade after his most successful year to date on tour. Consider that in 2019, Reavie cashed a bit north of $3.6 million in earnings, had his first top-10 finish in a major, and was ranked as high as #26 in the OWGR. That’s not exactly the resume of a guy looking to make an equipment change. But for one reason or another, Reavie felt the combination of Rollins and PXG could offer him something TaylorMade couldn’t (or wouldn’t). That was until half of it was gone. (Representatives for Reavie also did not return requests for comment).
If nothing else, this should serve as a reminder that, even in the often cutthroat world of professional golf, people matter.
PXG founder, Bob Parsons, isn’t a typical corporate executive. He isn’t a blue-blazer and personalized cuff links type of guy. Some love him, others loathe him, and many more likely don’t understand him. In short, Parsons is a bit of an enigma.
As a business entity, PXG is an extension of Parson’s personality. It attracts an undue amount of criticism, though not all is unwarranted. Parsons has a “go big or go home” persona and has the bank account to match it. In a word, he can be polarizing. When you’re at PXG, you’re living in Bob’s world. None of that is new information for anyone who’s been following the brand.
Parsons has several fundamental beliefs that are foundational to his business acumen, one of which is particularly relevant given the current situation.
During a conversation with MyGolfSpy last November, Parson’s stated, “Every organization, if it’s going to be successful as it grows, has to periodically reinvent itself.”
Whether or not this qualifies as reinvention is purely speculative. However, the decision to replace Rollins with Joel Kribel, who formerly ran PXG’s collegiate program, is being cast as part of PXG’s broader plan to increase its global footprint. A full statement from PXG is included at the end of this article.
METHOD AND MADNESS
Difficult personnel decisions are a routine part of the day-to-day operations of any company. Unless someone has direct knowledge of a situation, any theories or possible explanations are entirely speculative. Laws exist specifically to protect employees’ rights to privacy.
While I don’t suspect that will curb people from pontificating and tossing out any number of wild theories, the truth is likely more mundane than blood-thirsty conspiracy theorists might like. Again, this type of stuff happens more often than most realize.
What’s clear is Rollins, Horschel, and Reavie are gone, and much to the chagrin of some, the departures appear to have nothing to do with the quality or performance of the equipment. This is fundamentally about people, not drivers, irons, and wedge grinds.
According to PXG, the intent of any decision, personnel or otherwise, is based on positioning the brand for future growth. Whether the strategy seems reasonable to the general public, is the very definition of what it means to be part of the general public. It also means there’s a broader context in play, the details of which could help consumers better understand individual decisions.
But, we all know how the rest of that movie plays out.
For now, the most objective approach is likely to understand that change is difficult, doesn’t make sense to all involved, and yet, is inevitable.
As PXG continues to expand globally, we are taking proactive steps to help ensure the experience of our PXG Troops – from customer to touring professional – is exceptional. This includes making sure we have the best staff, facilities and technology. Through the end of the year we will invest heavily to achieve our goals.
Here are some of the major projects currently in the works:
- Further develop the PXG campus in Scottsdale, AZ to allow for an expanded Player Support experience
- Open a PXG Apparel Design Lab on the PXG campus in Scottsdale, AZ
- Open 3-5 new PXG retail and fitting studios in the U.S.
- Open a fully staffed PXG Headquarters in Japan
- Add additional layers of support for our professional staff, including dedicated Korn Ferry Tour, Symetra Tour, and collegiate program representatives
To support these goals, we are making some strategic changes to our existing operations and staffing. While we understand change can be difficult, we also know without it we can’t grow.
The future is bright!