A Q&A With SwingThought TOUR CEO Michael Rush
The Golf Coaches Association of America, in cooperation with its long-time corporate partner, the SwingThought TOUR, will feature a monthly Q&A with former collegians who are currently playing or have played on the SwingThought TOUR. Long considered the premier developmental tour in the United States, thousands of former college players have started their professional careers there. More than 250 SwingThought TOUR alumni have or continue to play on the PGA TOUR.
This month we spoke with SwingThought TOUR CEO Michael Rush about changes to the TOUR this year and his vision for its future.
Q: There have been some changes to the TOUR this year, what can you tell us about the changes that took place this year, and any that are still to come?
Yes - after purchasing the previous tours to acquire our entry market position in 2015, 2016 being largely our consolidation and rebuilding year into the model we wanted to move forward with...2017 is the next step for us in our mission to develop & advance golfers, courses and communities. Now our model is in place with our mission being front and center out in the public and the roots of this developmental system in place as well with our National Series, State Series and qualifying series.
We set out to build a sustainable, scalable developmental system that is similar to A-AA of professional baseball. This is a BIG vision, one that is very much needed in U.S developmental golf, and there were many hurdles to overcome in order to get to a place where we can run free and clear of the “mini” tour mindset that everyone in golf has been accustomed to. Golf has more than enough interest, value and resources to go around to 10x more than the few number of spots at the top of the mountain.
Q: The SwingThought TOUR has always been focused on the development of players, in addition to providing a great weekly experience. Is development of players still at the forefront of what you do
Absolutely - it is in our vision and mission statement - Develop & advance. I do not know of another tour that even has a mission statement and that is very concerning to me and should tell everyone all they need to know about what a group’s true deep down “WHY” is. A lot of mini tours out there but few are willing to build something substantial enough (put up enough risk and persistence) to actually elevate opportunities for players, courses and communities.
Q: What do you want the ideal experience to be for members on site at tournaments?
A professional, consistent and fun experience
Q: What is the most important thing you have learned since starting this venture in 2015?
I would say 2 things come to mind immediately for me. 1. Your vision is a living breathing entity and it requires immense dedication and perseverance to continue to cultivate. Including allowing it to grow in new ways you may not have considered at the start and this includes empowering others to help drive it. 2. Leadership is hard and often is a lonely position to be in. It is not about chasing happiness or praise of others - which I think is true for life in general - if you have a goal for something that is good in nature (good for others etc.) and if it is big enough it is going to cause a lot of discomfort of those who are used to doing something a certain way even if those ways haven’t improved circumstances over time. Part of the challenge is staying the course because you believe in what you are building at some point will stick with the those that you are doing it for like it does for you everyday you work to advance it. We are dedicated to developing and advancing golfers courses and communities and step by step over a journey of small victories towards that vision the result will be improvement of situation for many.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you have overcome, and how has the overall product benefited from working through those challenges?
Big visions, plans, etc. require a lot of time and support - I think the biggest challenge we have overcome is getting to where we are at today with our mission out there and free and clear of the former tours. The next big challenge to overcome is to educate the marketplace on who we are and why we are. Thankfully our mission is simple - Develop and advance golfers, courses and communities (golf).
Q: What is your favorite aspect about your role as the CEO of the SwingThought TOUR?
Ha - well I am also the janitor, web developer, and many other titles. At the end of the day I am a developmental pro golfer myself and experienced a problem in the industry that I wanted to solve for myself and others. I really do not see it in any other way. Ideally as this grows I will be less and less in the way of those that are great at carrying out vision and executing. I have had to learn to learn fast and be able to handle a lot - entrepreneurship if you stick in it long enough is an amazing journey that will grow you and humble you.
Q: As someone who oversees a professional golf tour, what advice would you have for golfers finishing up their collegiate eligibility who are looking to make the transition to professional golf?
DREAM BIG. INFORMATION IS THE ONLY THING ANYONE ELSE CAN GIVE YOU. SEEK WISE COUNSEL. ALIGN YOURSELF WITH THOSE THAT ARE WILLING TO DREAM BIG ALONGSIDE YOUR BIG DREAMS (REAL SUPPORT) - INCLUDING A TOUR WITH A BIG DREAMS - YOU WILL BE WHAT YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH.
Q: Talk about, if you could, your vision for the future of the SwingThought TOUR, both this season and beyond.
To establish a true developmental system that develops and advances golfers, courses and communities - resulting in organic growth of the game through providing more access to the experience of golf.