I grew up as an avid golfer and engineer – I really loved both. I merged those two passions when I became a Research Engineer at Srixon/Cleveland Golf right out of school. I spent years in the R&D before moving to the Marketing Department to work on product planning and messaging.
THE SCHIELKE STORY —
After graduating high school, I had a major decision ahead of me. I could go to a smaller school and very likely play on the golf team, or go to the University of Michigan to pursue my engineering degree but no longer play golf competitively — I wasn’t good enough to be recruited to a Division one school. I decided on the latter, as going to a top engineering school was a great opportunity I could not pass up.
I ended up trying out for the golf team at Michigan my junior year — there was not necessarily a spot, but if anyone played really well they could open one up. I played great — especially my short game! — and ended up earning a spot on the team. It was an awesome experience and I can’t thank my coaches and teammates enough.
The specific instance that really propelled me into the golf industry was when one of my teammates mentioned a couple former women golfers now worked at Srixon/Cleveland Golf. A light bulb went off that there was a possibility to use my engineering degree to design golf clubs. It was the perfect fit for me. I reached out — came to Huntington Beach to visit — and was offered a job after graduation.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
What I try to do, and this goes for our company as a whole, is meet the needs of all the golfers out there. We’re really customer-focused, trying to solve any problems you might encounter on the golf course though our innovative equipment. I love talking with golfers and hearing their thoughts so we can create solutions to help them play better and enjoy their time on the course.
What’s been the key for Srixon’s increased standing in the ball and club areas?
Trial has really been key. Our equipment – from balls to clubs – are top quality and high performance, so when we get them in golfer’s hands they notice the improvements immediately and tend to stick with the brand. Our increased market share has really been from gaining more trial, and having the performance to back it up so golfers stick with our brand.
How do you differ from your competition?
One way we are different from most brands is that Srixon is part of Sumitomo Rubber Industries, a $7B rubber, tire, and sporting goods company. We have extraordinary resources and R&D that has led to countless innovations and patents for golf balls and clubs. We take advantage of these resources every day to ensure we are staying ahead of the competition.
Who is your customer?
Pretty much all avid golfers are our customers. We believe in making balls for every type of golfer so each one can play the best performance for their game. That’s why we have a full range from the 2-piece Soft Feel men’s and women’s to the tour performance Z-STAR Series.
How important is the feedback process — and can you illustrate one time when such information played a leading role in what you ultimately produced?
Feedback is very important and the Q-STAR TOUR golf ball is an excellent example of this. In talking with golfers, there were so many who wanted tour-level greenside spin — that one hop and stop performance you see on TV — but they did not quite have the swing speeds to play our Z-STAR or Z-STAR XV golf balls. The result was Q-STAR TOUR. A golf ball built for moderate swing speeds, but with the same urethane cover as our tour balls. This has quickly become one of our best-selling golf balls because it performs well for so many golfers.
Golf equipment companies routinely tout their customer service. Define the term and outline the approach followed by Srixon?
This is a good one – our team is actually called the Customer Experience team, not the Customer Service team. When anyone interacts with our brand, from golfers, golf pros, or retailers, we want them to have a positive experience with our brand. We strive to give them that experience regardless of who they are or how they are interacting with our brand.
Of what value do product endorsements play. Do consumers really value them when making purchases?
Endorsements are certainly nice, but do not sell the product by themselves. The clubs and balls still need to perform. Where I think endorsements really help is to gain awareness of the new products so golfer can go to their local golf shop and try them out for themselves.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
That’s a tough one because I love pretty much everything about golf. Playing a 5.5 or 6 hour round is tough though, I would probably encourage speed of play to all golfers at a young age — more to speed it up a bit at the local courses.
The major golf organizations — USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA Tour, LPGA — are all seeking ways to attract Millennials, women and minorities to the sport. If you were counseling them — what would you advise they be doing?
All of these organizations are trying to grow the game, which is great. I would just tell them to keep pushing and do not stop. Golf is such a great sport that you can play for life. The more we push, introduce it to young kids, and make it inclusive, the better.
Best advice you ever received – what was it and who from?
My older brother always worked hard and dedicated himself to anything he set his mind to. He set that example that I watched and looked up growing up, which I think has always helped my work ethic. That’s not really advice, but important to how I approach things in life.
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