Faced with a decline in the golf equipment industry, Dick's Sporting Goods, the largest retailer in the United States of TaylorMade and Callaway products, fired all the PGA professionals that it employed in the golf sections of its more than 560 stores.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but three PGA professionals who were fired confirmed to ESPN.com that more than 500 full-time PGA professionals were let go Tuesday.
"I'm sincerely disappointed that the careers of so many PGA professionals have been hurt today," said PGA of America president Ted Bishop in a letter to the affected employees, obtained by ESPN.com.
Dick's aimed to have one PGA professional at every store to better differentiate the experience from online retailers that try to undercut brick-and-mortar stores. But the economy, the downturn in participation, the decline of Tiger Woods and too many products flooding the market cut into Dick's bottom line so much that the company seems to be giving up on winning the golf equipment business.
Dick's also owns golf specialty retailer Golf Galaxy, which it acquired in 2006 for more than $200 million.
"We are selling drivers in our stores this spring for $99 that were approximately $299 20 months ago," Dick's CEO Ed Stack said after announcing earnings on May 20.
Stack said at the time that the company's overall golf business missed its first-quarter sales plan by $34 million and that he expected a downward trend for the rest of the year.
Dick's said it sold only 2 percent fewer drivers in the first quarter this year compared to the first quarter of 2013 but that the average price of those drivers was down 16 percent. On average, the golf business accounts for about 15 percent of Dick's overall revenues.
As TaylorMade's largest retailer, Dick's was hit hard after it bought all four models of the driver TaylorMade released last year. The glut of merchandise forced Dick's to sell at under the suggested retail price.
"Every macro-indicator that we've been looking at for the past 20 years -- rounds played, number of minorities playing, women coming into the game -- all of these things that we tracked says that there's less people playing," Mark King, the former president of TaylorMade who was recently named president of adidas North America, told Bryant Gumbel on HBO's "Real Sports" in a segment that will air Tuesday night. "Young people entering the game after high school, 18- to 30-year-olds are down 35 percent in the last 10 years. So I don't like where the game looks like it's going."
Approximately 400,000 people left the sport in the past year, according to the National Golf Foundation.