The Toro Co. had strong third-quarter earnings, led by sales to golf courses, groundskeepers and other professionals.

The earnings in the quarter ended Aug. 4 were $68.4 million, or 61 cents a share, up from $55.8 million, or 50 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. The consensus expectation among seven analysts covering the company, according to Thomson Reuters, was 57 cents a share.

Sales, at $627.9 million, fell shy of the expected $628.1 million but were 4.5 percent higher than last year.

"We are pleased to deliver strong results for the quarter driven by positive momentum in our professional segment," said Toro CEO Richard Olson in a statement. "Innovative new offerings across our professional portfolio fueled the growth."

Toro's professional segment generates about 71 percent of Toro's overall sales and includes products for golf courses, landscape companies and grounds maintenance crews. Strong sales of zero-turn mowers to professionals and sales of Groundsmaster and Greensmaster mowers for golf and grounds business helped to fuel a 9.5 percent increase in third-quarter revenue for the segment.

Sales in the residential segment were $152.1 million, down 9.3 percent from $167.8 million in last year's quarter. The timing of a residential mower sales promotion and residential consumers who elected to buy professional grade zero-turn mowers impacted the residential side. Early season shipments of residential snow products were a bright spot in the segment, though.

Shares of Toro on Thursday fell 8.7 percent to $63.01. Year to date, shares are up 12.6 percent.