Srixon / Cleveland Golf / XXIO / asics
Interview with Matt Ward
Golf has always been a part of my life as a player and when I stopped playing, I found it natural to work in the industry. I started at a start-up golf clothing company and learned a ton about account management, warehouse and inventory management and the product lifecycle.
I’ve been working at Srixon/Cleveland for 5 years and in my current position for 3.5 years. When I started at Srixon/Cleveland I was in Customer Experience and then worked as a Buyer/Planner where I was certified as a supply chain professional. In my current role I use all this experience from playing golf to my supply chain experience to help make decisions on products that just make sense from a players perspective and a business perspective.
The DeLazzer Story:
Born and raised in Southern California, I grew up playing golf and played for UC Riverside. I majored in history with the idea I would go to law school, however, I quickly realized I’d rather golf than review contracts all day. I played professionally on the Symetra Tour and was on the reality TV show Altered Course. While I had a lot of fun playing golf, I also needed to make money and move out of my parents’ house.
Growing up playing golf every day and having tournaments all summer long, didn’t allow me the opportunity to have internships or work experience to figure out what I wanted to do outside of golf. Once I stopped playing golf, I committed to figuring that out. After working a couple jobs that didn’t spark joy, I started at Srixon/Cleveland in 2016 and quickly rose through the company. I love that I was able to work in multiple departments and was given many different opportunities to learn and grow professionally.
After working in supply chain for a little over a year, my coworkers bullied me into applying for a product manager position. I’m grateful they did because this role fits me well. It’s the perfect role that taps into on all of my experiences as a player, customer service rep, and as a supply chain professional. I love the diverse responsibilities of this role and the creative outlet it provides.
The golf ball line from Srixon and XXIO has made considerable progress over the last several years. What do you attribute that to?
Our growth over the last few years is due to our high quality and high performing products, from tour to amateur level our balls perform across the board. We’ve seen a lot of success from people trying the ball and having the opportunity to see for themselves the performance benefits they can gain.
How does your golf ball products differentiate themselves from your competitors?
Performance is the most obvious way Srixon golf balls stand apart. Some of the fastest Professionals on multiple tours choose Srixon golf balls because they’re best-suited for those high-velocity swings. But we also stand out in our dedication to the everyday golfer.
Our two-piece offerings are hugely popular for players who prefer softer compression or simply enjoy great performance at a competitive price. Ultimately, with our industry-leading patent catalog and long history of making golf balls, we have the pedigree and the technology to deliver world-class performance. There aren’t many others who can say the same.
Titleist has long been the king of the golf ball market. What’s your strategy in seeking to increase your market share at their expense?
It all begins with momentum; we’ve had a lot of momentum the past couple years with major tour wins and launching brand new products like the Divide series and Z-STAR DIAMOND. We plan to continue offering high-quality, tour-proven products that perform well across categories. We continue to invest in our golf ball engineering and production, and we’re excited to build on this momentum.
How important is ball fitting today — especially among higher handicap players?
Ball fitting is very important to all categories of players, and higher handicaps can especially stand to benefit. Our golf ball line up has a few balls to choose from that greatly benefit those with slower swing speeds and higher handicaps. We are aware that there are many types of golfers who deserve to have tour-driven technology in a ball that works for them.
Who is your customer today?
Our customer is the golfer who wants a product that uses cutting edge technology and innovation, they demand unmatched performance and at a competitive price point.
What’s your take on possible action being taken by the USGA and R&A on the distances golf balls are traveling now?
We will always make balls that meet the requirements of the USGA/R&A confirming list. However, as a product development focused company, we take a more pro-innovation, and pro-distance stance on equipment due to our inherent strengths in R&D. We continually come up with new ideas to improve performance and distance and we like to showcase that to golfers.
We believe the vast majority of golfers who gravitate to our high-performance equipment like equipment that is better, goes farther, and helps lower their scores.
How important a role does endorsements from tour players have on both your visibility and credibility with consumers?
When we survey golfers, they usually say “tour endorsements don’t affect which brands/product I buy”. However, we look at our partnerships in a different way. We link our brands to key tour players and ambassadors to convey an image of prestige and excitement that reflects the great performance of our products.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
I would reduce the number of holes to play, golf should be 16 holes, with 8’s instead of 9’s. Two less holes would help pace of play and allow people the time to go play.
Having to block off 5-6 hours to play a round of golf is a barrier for a lot of beginners or those who find themselves too busy to enjoy the sport they love.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
Best advice I’ve received was from my dad, growing up he taught me how to play golf and coached me throughout college golf. He is full of quotes, but he’d always say, “If it was easy to be great, everyone would be.”
It’s a quick line that reminds you that nothing comes easy, you need to put in the time and effort to get the results you want.
The biggest challenges facing the company — short and long term — is what?
Our biggest short-term challenge is supply, we’ve seen a boom in demand and are working tirelessly to keep our products available. Our long-term challenge is brand awareness. We compete in a space filled with household names that many golfers have grown up with.
But, while significant growth happens over time, we expand every year thanks to the uncompromising quality of our performance-driven products.
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