The opinionated, irascible and entertaining Frank Thomas has handed away at age 81 after a coronary heart assault.
He’s survived by Valerie Melvin, his spouse and enterprise accomplice, his kids Joanne Thomas, Ginny Zimmerman, Will Thomas and grandchildren Colin and Jordan Zimmerman, Alli and Ryan White.
Defender of Custom and Innovation
A fixture and a defining determine inside the USGA from 1974 to 2000, he was a formidable defender of product compliance.
Thomas dominated on each membership and golf ball developed throughout his 26 years on the USGA, strolling the golf trade’s perilous tightrope like a Wallenda. The reams of apparatus guidelines, lots of which Thomas wrote, have been supposed to keep up conventional golf values however not stifle innovation and expertise.
Rules, ethics and the basic sanctity of the sport have been his guiding lights. He resigned from the USGA when his views on thin-faced drivers diverged from these of his employer.
“All they have been involved about was the lawsuits,” stated Thomas. “I instructed them, ‘Guys, we have now to leap throughout this. This can be a downside.’ After they stated ‘no’, I knew it was time for me to go.” Previous to becoming a member of the USGA, he designed the primary graphite golf shaft whereas working for Shakespeare Sporting Items, well-known then just for fishing rods.
On the USGA, his influence was widespread and lasting. He refined the Stimpmeter. He was instrumental within the growth of the Slope system in addition to within the formation of the USGA’s Analysis and Take a look at Heart.
Included in that venture was the governing physique’s indoor take a look at vary. Designed to measure the aerodynamic properties of golf balls, the information helped type the muse for what now’s the USGA’s Total Distance Normal.
“I’ve identified Frank from the time he was concerned with inventing the graphite shaft,” famend teacher David Leadbetter stated in 2008. “Frank has at all times had nice foresight in trying on the growth of the sport and a eager understanding of what’s vital and what isn’t. His integrity is unquestioned and when he offers his views on develop or save the way forward for golf, we’d all be sensible to pay attention.”
On that notice, in 2006, Thomas had this to say about tools for leisure golfers versus touring professionals:
‘The USGA’s adopted or proposed restrictions on clubhead measurement, tee top, shaft size and Second of Inertia, in addition to its exploring ball expertise to cut back distance by 25 yards, will do little to restrict the long run efficiency of elite golfers. However these restrictions could restrict the efficiency of the typical golfer, which is a extra vital concern at time when the sport will not be rising. Proposals to limit Second of Inertia (the extent to which a membership resists twisting at influence) could have a a lot better impact on the typical golfer, who wants a extra forgiving membership, than it’ll on the skilled who is usually making contact on the candy spot anyway.
The sport’s regulating physique (USGA) ought to contemplate the pursuits of the 99% of golfers who aren’t on the elite degree, quite than aiming its guidelines on the 1% who’re. Golf is a dynamic recreation, and it wants the stimulation that modern expertise could present. Participation within the recreation has been stagnant for a number of years, and though the USGA will not be immediately accountable for this, these current proposals are indicative of its lack of consideration for the lower than elite golfer.’
A Legend Behind the Guidelines
Issuing hundreds of rulings throughout his 26 years with the USGA and writing most of the tools guidelines that outline the fashionable recreation, it may be safely stated no particular person has been extra extremely revered on tools and its complexities.
“There are few individuals I do know extra educated concerning the technical points of the sport of golf than Frank,” stated Jack Nicklaus in a foreword for Thomas’s 2008 e-book, Simply Hit It, “and only a few extra passionate concerning the want for integrity and imaginative and prescient in all points of the sport.”
Thomas admitted his concepts and fervour left little room for opposing viewpoints.
“There’s no filter on me. What I consider and what I say, properly, that’s sometimes to my detriment as a result of I’m not a politician. Everybody is aware of the place I’m coming from and, actually, I’m too previous to vary. I’ve sturdy opinions about this recreation.”
Of that, there isn’t any query.
Standing Down Golf Giants
As a part of the $300-million PING Eye2 square-grooves anti-trust lawsuit in 1985, he was named personally by Karsten Manufacturing.
As USGA technical director, he sparred with formidable opponents corresponding to former Titleist chief govt Wally Uihlein, Callaway Golf founder Ely Callaway and former TaylorMade CEO Mark King. He wrestled with Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer over distance, Tiger Woods and the PGA TOUR over onsite testing and had his trademark “frank” discussions with Greg Norman on grooves and spin operate.
One factor about Frank Thomas. He by no means backed down from a struggle if he thought he was proper. And he thought he was proper most, if not all, of the time.
“I discovered Frank to be very sensible, charming and interesting,” stated Odyssey’s Normal Supervisor Sean Toulon. “Despite the fact that we have been typically on completely different sides of the problem (often I used to be offense and he was on protection), I discovered Frank to be curious and open to a special perspective. He actually had the trade’s respect.”
Brief-game guru Dave Pelz was on the flawed finish of a few well-publicized product verdicts from Thomas however that by no means diminished the excessive regard he had for the USGA’s tools sheriff.
“He at all times put the sport first,” stated Pelz, whose 3-Ball and Flat High putter designs have been rejected by Thomas. “Despite the fact that you have been completely furious at his selections, they by no means wavered from what he felt was proper. Frank was all about integrity.”
Early Life and Profession
Flashback to 1962, when Thomas, barely out of his teenagers, was on a 25-foot sailboat in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean together with his pal Malcolm Maidwell.
It’s 2,500 miles throughout treacherous seas from Durban, South Africa, to the US. For a person who would ultimately spend 26 years of his life immersed within the seemingly turgid waters of golf tools guidelines, this would seem, to place it mildly, considerably out of character.
“That’s simply the purpose,” stated Thomas. “Out on the ocean, we set our personal guidelines, we made our personal legal guidelines. They helped form my character, taught me about self-reliance. My complete life’s been about attending to the sting of the envelope. Crusing to America was an instance of that. I had a map of the South Atlantic, a wrist watch and no radio. I knew America was on the market and that’s what stored us going. After one thing like that, there isn’t quite a bit in life you are feeling you may’t deal with.”
Having made it to America in a single piece, Thomas utilized to the College of Michigan, considering he’d prefer to be a health care provider. His software was rejected so he enrolled within the engineering program at Western Michigan.
Not removed from the campus was the headquarters for Shakespeare Sporting Items. After commencement, Thomas went to their analysis facility in Columbia, S.C. His first task: Construct the world’s finest golf golf equipment with the very best shafts.
As Thomas recalled:
“The primary fiberglass shafts Gary Participant as soon as used have been already out however they have been horrible, simply terrible. Union Carbide got here to me with this graphite filament. They have been seeking to get into the patron market and figured this is perhaps the way in which to do it. Initially, the properties have been very dangerous however once we modified them they labored. From there, we have been in a position to introduce graphite shafts into the golf market.”
Preserving an in depth eye on his work with Shakespeare at that time was the USGA. For multiple motive. The governing physique had a gap for somebody together with his particular ability set to take over management of its technical division.
“The very best choice I ever made was ultimately saying sure,” he recalled. “I imply, that relationship lasted 26 years earlier than it kind of wore itself out. The USGA gave me a pleasant bundle and that was that. No regrets. As quickly as I left that final assembly I phoned Valerie and stated, ‘OK, let’s get one thing going.’”
On a visit to St Andrews in 2000, Thomas met Melvin, a former member of Scotland’s nationwide golf staff. They fashioned Frankly Golf, a consulting agency devoted to instructing customers how golf expertise works, assist them make extra knowledgeable selections about tools purchases and foster development within the sport.
Thomas additionally labored for Golf Channel and Golf Digest as an tools analyst, was a decide on Wilson Golf’s Driver Versus Driver design present and wrote for the New York Instances. He was a speaker for quite a lot of firms through the annual PGA Merchandise Present and was at all times out there to the media.
Thomas and Melvin designed and produced a pair of putters, the mid-mallet Frankly Frog and extra blade-like F-16 Stealth, and provided placing instruction programs. Thomas delved into one other venture. His 2008 e-book, Simply Hit It with Jeff Neumann, was a groundbreaking learn.
Far more than a guardian of the sport for the USGA, Frank Thomas was pushed to assist golfers get essentially the most they might from the expertise. By my rely, he did that for nearly 50 of his 81 years.