Graphite Design to close U.S. shop, outsource distribution

Tiger Woods uses a Graphite Design driver.

Shaftmaker Graphite Design International will close its U.S. headquarters in San Diego on Nov. 30, Golfweek has learned.

“It was a difficult decision after being in San Diego for 15 years,” the company wrote Oct. 31 to GDI customers in an email obtained by Golfweek. “The board of directors of Graphite Design International made this business decision in light of the current business environment and our group's plan to streamline its business worldwide.”

Graphite Design said it plans to grant exclusive distributorship rights for aftermarket shafts in the U.S., Canada and Europe to Pro's Choice Golf Shafts, a San Diego company owned by Wayne Ageno, the current chief financial officer for Graphite Design and one of its first employees hired in 1997, effective Dec. 1. GDI officials are making the rounds to meet with the leading U.S.-based original equipment manufacturers and outline their plans.

Graphite Design was founded and launched in Japan, where it has dominated market share among shaftmakers for more than a decade.

But in the U.S., GDI faced an uphill fight. Margins have been compressed across the board as OEMs demand better pricing from component makers. Still, the timing of the decision is curious, given GDI’s success in the professional ranks and the accompanying interest it generated in its products in the custom after-market category. Tiger Woods has been using GDI’s Tour AD-DI shafts in his metal woods since he returned from his layoff at the 2010 Masters, making the shaft one of the top-selling after-market custom upgrade shafts. According to the company’s website, more than 80 tour winners have used their products since 2004, including the 2012 U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and Women’s British Open champions.

At least 16 jobs will be eliminated with the closing of the San Diego office, according to an employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A phone message left with company founder Megumi Yamada was not immediately returned.

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