June 06. 2020. Founder Letter 

#LoveYourNeighbor

ST is “in progress”. We have not arrived on and off the course, we must do more. A (wake up) call to action for SwingThought, Golf as a sport/industry, a society of all beautiful colors and races.

Typically I am most comfortable making statements with actions, engaging people in normal life activities and through what I contribute to companies and missions in which I am involved (whether financial, intellectual capital, time, etc). With what is going on in the United States, comfortability needs to be taken off the table, and so I have something to say on behalf of myself and SwingThought. For those that get upset that we are expressing our desire for equality inside our sport and in all of society – you should take your negativity elsewhere because it gets no play with us. If you are a stakeholder whether a male or female golfer, course and community partner, shareholder, fan of sports, and you are wondering where SwingThought stands: 

George Floyd and all those who have lost their lives because of the color of their skin are tragic and unacceptable losses. Black lives matter. Colors are a gift to us as humans, hatred is evil. We do not stand for any violence and harmful actions taken against another human being by anyone. We stand for peace.
Social and economic injustice for one is wrong. Social and economic justice for all is right.
We believe society should strive for equal opportunity for every human. Everyone should have the freedom to strive and thrive in life, not only survive. 
We believe it is on us, as neighbors, to not let anyone fall behind, shielding one another, wherever possible, from physical and emotional harm.
The SwingThought team cares deeply for people of all colors, races and backgrounds. We just want to serve you along your golf journey.

I have been wrestling with what to say from my perspective and what I can do from my small position of influence as a developing professional athlete and Entrepreneur who has built something of (growing) influence and value.  I realized if I was bold enough to take the big risks that I have taken with SwingThought, to help improve the lives of others, then we must do a better job of ensuring what we do is more accessible and supportive of all races. Just as we have with other risky and “mission critical” initiatives such as assigning value to, through major investment, undervalued player groups along the golf journey, delivering equality for men and women in competition and earning opportunities at every event (not just for marketing gimmicks).

We must find common threads in our journeys as humans and then come to the table with humility and empathy so we may better understand others and their circumstances.

I know what it is like to be in a constant uphill battle, under-resourced compared to the size of my goals and vision, ignored by those in establishment, counted-out, misunderstood, judged through assumptions. Believe it or not I have received plenty of hate messages, have been called names, slandered by the same people that I have invested in and supported. I have seen deals that would have benefited tens of thousands of people through golf intentionally sabotaged by bad actors. Why does this all happen? Because some people fear what they don’t understand and what threatens the way things have always been done. SwingThought represents a disruption to the natural way of how things within our industry. Our platform threatens the few who stand to gain from things remaining to operate the way “they always have”. I share this to demonstrate that while our company is more easily inclined to empathize and identify with others who face an uphill battle… None of our circumstances, day in day out, compare to the physical, emotional and mental uphill battle that people of other color and races face. 

I certainly don’t know what it’s like to be murdered because of the color of my skin. As a member of the human race, this recurring act is disgusting and abhorrent to me and our company. I do not know what it is like to go through normal activities, knowing I am likely to be profiled because of the color of my skin, such as taking a trip to the grocery store, dining at a restaurant, and walking into the golf course pro shop. I cannot imagine having to deal with systematic racism, injustice and prejudice while also dealing with life’s universal challenges. I already struggle with the normal life stuff as a privileged white male. Going back to earlier in my life, when I was a skinny kid who was unsure of himself, I always felt more connected to others on the fringe or those in the minority, whether in thoughts or actions, than I did the majority. I have a faith that sustains me during the toughest of times… I have been saved by grace through faith which is not gained or sustained on my own strength but only because Jesus chose to love me by dying for my sins.  His grace is an underserved gift. This is the foundation of my faith and having this relationship doesn’t make me better than any other person, regardless of how they feel or what they believe. The relationship enables me to become more for others by being less for myself, on my best days and when I struggle I have a foundation I can rely on for grace. 

Love your neighbor as you love yourself”… To us at SwingThought, this means all neighbors. We must learn to become especially loving to those who don’t look like us or don’t have the same background as we do. To do so will require the softening of our hearts, taking more time to listen and care about what others go through day in day out. People of influence and privilege need to step up and take RISK for those persecuted and this includes myself and SwingThought. We must do more and do it boldly. The human race is capable of being compassionate and uplifting one another to heights not previously reached as we are one body. The only thing we can control is our response to what happens to us and others. We have the opportunity as individuals to follow the loving instruction of “love your neighbor” which results in building one another up while simultaneously attacking and destroying the source of the problem – pride, fear, etc. Love is that powerful. When we love another, especially when there are differences and it is hard in our nature to do so, something in us changes and something in that person as well. 

To change tomorrow, we must do with what we have where we are today.

SwingThought was intentionally designed to serve anyone and everyone through the game of golf, purely out of the love for the game. Back in 2010, I developed the brand to provide a means for anyone to connect to the experience of the game, which provides countless physical, emotional and mental benefits for anyone who gives the game a chance. Whether we deliver products, events, technologies, services… they are available for anyone to enjoy.

“Swing thoughts” are defined as physical and emotional connections to the experience of the game. We all have swing thoughts regardless of age, ability, sex, race etc. 

With the very nature of our brand, and because of the way golf has been organized for hundreds of years, we stand out like a sore thumb in our industry. Many companies in golf, from a growth approach perspective, have a narrow way of viewing the value proposition the game offers, as many look to extract value from the game while protecting limited access. This has undoubtedly left a lot of people behind who have not been able to access all the benefits the game has to offer. The game suffers because of attitudes on and off the course and this needs to change in order for the game to reach its potential. We also have a deep-rooted race prejudice inside of our industry.  I have experienced the varying degrees of the elitist attitude in the game first hand as a player, dear-friend of minority players, an owner of a business etc. I am sure I have been part of the problem in some ways over the years despite my best efforts to bring more people to the game. I don’t know how it would be possible for any person in their heart to not acknowledge racism obviously exists inside of Golf and society. Racism exists and it needs be eradicated. In order to do this we must first acknowledge the problem exists. 

Racism is evil and we need to do everything we can to defeat it. If we can so boldly take on cancers, and other human killers, we should also meet the fight against racism with the same collective will. 
At SwingThought, we aim to go wider and deeper than the game has ever gone before, connecting more people to and through the game. We believe IT IS possible to have a future in Golf, and society, where there is no room for racism to play.

The opportunity that sport provides society is life giving and potentially world changing. In golf’s case, provided access, everyone can share a common perspective through the lens of the journey, learning from each other, pushing each other towards our best on and off the course . The big opportunity for SwingThought to contribute to social change, right where we are today, is to support the journey of everyone. In golf we are too heavily invested in a top down approach that leaves many on the outside due to cost, access, connection, etc. We should take a cue from fitness industries that encourage everyone that they are an athlete and their journey matters. The result?… Gyms are far more diverse in race, age, sex than golf courses day in and day out. The approach golf takes as a collective translates too closely to how society operates outside of the sport and we are uncomfortable with this. Golf should LEAD society in some ways, not LAG behind. While the sport is behind many others when it comes to equality and diversity, I do believe, because of the beauty of the game, and its infinite ability to speak to an individual, Golf has an opportunity to become a leader in social and economic development given the make up of influence the game has aggregated at the local and global levels. As an industry, we should pursue bold visions such as these, achieving unprecedented impact and value. Striving to simply to be considered one of the main sports by the general sports audience is not big or good enough for the game. SwingThought will be exploring ideas and then taking actionable steps to do our part in addressing systematic oppression and racism that exists inside of golf and in this country for people of color and minorities. 

With humility, at SwingThought, we ask for support from people of all colors and backgrounds, who may have an interest in the game, to help us change lives, hearts and minds through golf. It will bring change to society. Please contact us and come alongside us, lending a hand, heart, mind, wallet, relationships, etc… We need to go all in together as golf is capable and equipped, socially and economically, to change lives on and off the course including playing a key part in helping to defeat racism.  

My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a loved one and/or is struggling due to injustice and inequality. It hurts me that you are hurting. SURVIVE should not and can no longer be a way of life for someone due to the color of their skin. If we love someone, a community, a sport, a country, etc… We should love enough to risk our own discomfort in pursuit of the betterment of the object of our love and our relationship with it. We must ask ourselves and each other where did this prejudice come from? Is it really worth it to me and others to hold onto this? Where do we need to go from here? How do we go together? We have a long journey ahead and we must go forward boldly with love. I hope for a future where our varying skin colors are celebrated, just as humans universally acknowledge and are in awe at the beautiful colors we see in nature. Let’s STRIVE for a future where humility and close relationship with one another opens our eyes to the beauty in the variety of our skin colors, with persecution and injustice finally being a thing of the past that we truly learned from, so that we may then THRIVE together.

Love,

Michael Rush 

John 3:30