Bradford Wilson Wants to Talk: SoCal Social Media Star Champions Golf and Therapy (and Not in That Order)
It’s morning in the Beverly Grove neighborhood of Los Angeles, and Bradford Wilson is on his daily ritualistic walk. On the corner of Third & Poinsettia he passes a mural of Virgil Abloh, with an affixed quote from the late fashion designer that reads, “Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself.” Abloh’s wife once wrote that those words stemmed from her husband’s deep belief in the power that art has to inspire future generations. To Wilson, the words are a critical and personal reminder to recognize, heal and give back to the early teenage version of himself that he says, at the time, was damaged and merely just existing. Two decades later, Wilson has found himself drenched in purpose and clarity, a search-and-rescue effort heavily aided by therapy — and golf.
TURNING POINT: NOW AND THEN
Bradford Wilson, 32, is a golfer, a podcaster, an actor and a content creator. If you watched any PGA Tour broadcasts this past season, you likely saw him in national commercials for Winn grips and Sentry Insurance. He also recently hosted a series for Skratch TV documenting the Black history and Black future of golf, which included an interview with SCGA Junior standout Josiah Joseph. His podcast, Group Golf Therapy, has an international audience, and he now hosts a new SCGA-produced YouTube golf show called Bradford Plays. Despite the current widespread success, Wilson’s relationship with golf and social media hasn’t always felt as good as it does now.
The summer of 2020 is what Wilson refers to as “the modern-day civil rights movement.” During this time, he used social media to find his voice, unabashedly expressing the most honest version of himself and his feelings. In one post, responding to the murder of George Floyd, Wilson filmed himself saying to the camera, “I’m a son, brother, uncle, partner and a friend. I am not a threat.” In another, Wilson shared a photo of himself at a police brutality protest with a quote from James Baldwin invoking the “right to be here” as the caption. Regardless of any blowback from internet strangers, Wilson was confident in his convictions. “My earliest influences in life … my pastor, Maya Angelou and Malcom X … they never minced words. I’m inspired by people who are unapologetic.”
Wilson’s unfiltered authenticity and a growing prominence in his online community started to yield a bigger social media following and the attention of brands that wanted to align and work with him. “Everything that’s come to me at this point has been from being honest, standing up for what I believe in and saying exactly what I think and how I feel.”
As Wilson has accumulated paid partnerships and continues to look for more, he is sworn to a personal credo that prioritizes conviction over capital.
“If a brand wants to pull the plug or take a pass on me because of what I say and believe, okay. Someone else will support me. And if that doesn’t happen, I’m part of a strong community, and that community is more important to me than any contract I could sign.”
The inescapable friction felt nationwide in 2020 has yielded to some undeniable progress that Wilson isn’t just happy to see, he’s happy to be a part of. And he gives a lot of the credit to Roger Steele, a prominent golf influencer who turned entrepreneurial content creation into deals with CBS, Nike, Callaway and more.
“2022 is a safer space than it was in 2020, or even 2021. I give credit to the big dawg, Roger Steele, because he’s opened the door for a lot of Black content creators to come through. No one thinks twice when they see a high-quality Black golf content creator anymore, because Roger set the standard.”
And it’s not just content creation that has become a safer and more equitable space. The comments sections on said posts have also been elevated to a better place than they once were.
“Today if I comment on something, I’m not concerned with my Blackness as much as the substance of what I’m saying. Before, I would be fearful going into an interaction with someone I didn’t know — I’d be thinking they’re going to say the worst, expecting to be let down, expecting someone to say something horrible. Now, I don’t lead with that thought in mind.”
For the many blemishes and pitfalls that litter the grounds of social media, there is much to be gained if you carefully curate an experience like Wilson has done in recent years.
“I’ve met some of my best friends through social media including my podcast partners, Connor Laubenstein and Drew Westphal. It can be a really beautiful place if you filter out the nonsense and find like minded souls and connect with them. Social media has given me so much. It’s opened doors for me and introduced me to people I never thought I would meet.”
MENTAL HEALTH FIRST
While Wilson has assumed a very active role in building his community and stewarding the inclusivity of golf, he’s also been hard at work on himself. Perhaps no one in the space has been more forward-facing and outwardly endorsing of the benefits of therapy.
Wilson sees a professional on a regular basis and publicly advocates for men to be more vulnerable with each other in an effort to destigmatize the narratives surrounding mental health.
“Mental health is as important to me as breathing. Without being healthy mentally, I don’t have my partner, I don’t have my career, I don’t have my friendships. You can’t pour into others from an empty cup.”
Putting mental health first is why Wilson takes his walks past the Abloh mural for a reminder to give back to the neglected teenage version of himself. It’s why he encourages others to talk to a professional. And it’s why doing his podcast makes him so happy.
“It’s hard to put into words what that’s done for me. It’s given me so much life back. It’s been very healing. It’s therapeutic. I treat my podcast as something I get to do. It is a pleasure and a joy for me. It’s an outlet for self-discovery with friends. The fact that people are listening to it is the cherry on top of the experience.”
Golf is also a huge part of Wilson’s newer, more fulfilled life. He played for a long time, but he took a break and needed to repair his relationship with the game before fully recommitting. That’s where the SCGA stepped in.
“I love the people at the SCGA. They’ve been super supportive of what I’ve been doing. It’s validating in a way I can’t even describe. Up until I met people at the SCGA, most of my golf experiences had been negative. The SCGA has shown me that there is light in the golf community. They’ve given me opportunities and showed me the world of social clubs. I love how invested the SCGA is with juniors. If I had the SCGA when I was 13 years old, I think my life and relationship with golf would have been healthier. I think the SCGA is an extremely important organization. It allows people to discover who they are in golf.”
Bradford Wilson’s life is unapologetically authentic, incredibly vulnerable and a constant work in progress. And he has an open invitation for anyone to join him on the ride. Just be prepared to open up and talk about it.