Dave Schnider, CEO of Fujikura Composites America, the company whose driver shafts have been used by the winners of more than half the events on the PGA Tour this year, scored one for the working members of the golf industry late last month. Schnider, a golf industry veteran who has been at Fujikura for the past 25 years and 16 as its CEO, rallied to shoot 70 in sectional qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open and then won a four-for-one playoff to capture the final spot in the 80-man field at the Goose Creek qualifier in California. We caught up with Schnider to get a read on his excitement of walking Newport Country Club later this week with his 15-year-old son, Luke, on the bag and his 85-year-old dad watching, and how he has gone from winning senior club championships to playing a major all while running one of the top shaft companies in golf. (Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)

You qualified for a PGA Tour event as a working man in the golf business 20 years ago (Buick Invitational). How much bigger is getting into the U.S. Senior Open at age 54?

This is bigger. I remember watching Tom Watson chip in in 1982 with my dad when I was 12 years old and then later in ’86 watching Jack Nicklaus win the Masters and deciding that I wanted to be a professional golfer and play in a major championship. I’ll never forget watching that with my dad. I had a good career in college, but it was humbling, and I saw how difficult it was going to be. I chose a career in the golf business instead. When I qualified for the Buick at Torrey Pines, I was proving something to myself, and I asked my dad to caddie for me because he introduced me to the game, and we got to share that. Now 20 years later, my son, who has become a good player and has inspired me to give this a shot, is going to be my caddie. He’s excited to do it, and I’m probably more excited to have that experience with him, just as I was with my dad 20 years ago.

RELATED: Newport Country Club to host 2024 U.S. Senior Open.

You have had some success as an amateur, but it’s not like you’re winning tournaments or even playing that much competitive golf. How did you get your game ready for this?

It’s not easy. It’s a lot of work, and my son really has gotten me excited to do the hard work, but I mostly play club stuff. I’ve won a few club championships—won the senior club championship at Shadow Ridge this year. I’ll try to grab a sandwich and hit balls and putt at lunch. Having had shoulder surgery in my late 40s and then a ruptured Achilles a few years ago, well, I wouldn’t have been able to get back to this place without my son pushing me. That journey and the work ethic that I feel like my dad instilled in me and that I’ve tried to instill in my son has made the difference. The two of us pushed each other the past couple of years.

How do you think your dedication to golf has benefited your company?

I have talented people on our staff who are good players, too, and we compete against each other, and we make good products. There’s a reason I think we’re a leader right now, and it has to do with our competitiveness as golfers wanting to make the best product and win. Having the golf knowledge and the passion for the sport, that’s a huge advantage. It helps you understand your consumer is just like you are. We’re wired a little differently. We live, breathe and eat everything golf. Even though I’m a CEO, I do biweekly meetings with my product-development engineer just to have chats about what’s going on. It’s something that I’m passionate about to this day. That has always helped me to keep up my level of play because that’s part of my job, to be a contributor to what products we develop and the performance of those products. I like to be part of the process, what products we’re going to put in front of tour players, and maybe I could relate to tour players because I was close enough to that level to understand what they’re looking for.

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Newport Country Club in Rhode Island will be the sixth club to have held the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Amateur (1995, above) and U.S. Senior Open. The others are Cherry Hills, Hazeltine National, Oakmont, Pinehurst No. 2 and Winged Foot.

J.D. Cuban

How is it different to get to play in this big-time event coming to it as a representative from the golf business?

I got a lot of support when I played in a tour event 20 years ago, and I sort of felt a little bit more pressure because of that. I’ll probably still feel some this time, but I’ve just grown a little older and wiser and realize it really doesn’t matter. Getting here is what’s special. It’s a total bonus. Everybody in the industry has been so supportive. They’ve been like, ‘Whatever you need, let us know.’ I’m really proud that this is an opportunity for Fujikura, too. We’re definitely going to have all 14 shafts in play in my bag. After I qualified my son came home that next day, and kids in his high school had seen the social media post we did. He said, ‘There were kids who I’ve never met before who came up to me and congratulated me and said how cool it was that you were playing in the U.S. Senior Open.’ That’s crazy. He said, ‘You’re like famous at my high school.’ I wouldn’t say that, but it was cool to hear that kind of stuff is happening in golf right now.

This article was originally published on golfdigest.com