Frank Thomas 1939-2021

Dear Frankly Friends,

It is with profound sadness that I share the news with you that my beloved husband, Frank Thomas passed away peacefully on the 17th March 2021 in Celebration, FL, USA, having suffered a heart attack on our daily walk.

It was 58 years earlier, to the day, that he set sail from his native South Africa, to head across the Atlantic toward America in his 25-foot sailboat Banshee with his friend Malcolm Maidwell in an incredible adventure that shaped his life and his enduring philosophy.

Frank lived the American Dream. He loved America and the freedoms and the opportunity that this country provides to everyone. He was an innovator and in America he was able to follow his dreams.

He invented the graphite golf shaft as Chief Design Engineer with Shakespeare Sporting Goods, an invention that was not only was a milestone in golf, but also in the manufacturing of consumer products where strength and lightweight is important.

He then joined the United States Golf Association (USGA) as Technical Director, where he developed the Research and Test Center. He directed the development of almost all the performance standards for golf equipment now used to maintain the integrity of the game enjoyed by so many people around the world. He directed the development of the Indoor Test Range (ITR) to measure golf ball aerodynamics, which is now used industrywide. He also directed the development of GHIN (golf handicap system) as well as redesigning the Stimpmeter now used internationally to measure the speed of greens.

Upon leaving the USGA, Frank started Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to helping golfers. Specializing in putting, he used his years of experience in science and research to design the Frankly Frog Putter and create the Certified Putting Instructor (CPI) Course, now used by eight PGA’s around the world for ongoing education.

Frank loved to help people. He wrote a regular column on our website and in Golf Digest, and had a segment on Golf Channel, answering golfer’s equipment questions for many years.

He loved innovation, nature, adventure, the beauty and evolution of life. No challenge was too great, and he believed that everyone should “Follow their dreams and never give up.”

He is survived by his sister Nora Hill and his children from his first marriage to Wendy Thomas:  Joanne Thomas, Ginny Zimmerman, Will Thomas and his grandchildren Colin and Jordan Zimmerman and Alli and Ryan White.

Frank had an amazing life. He was a very kind person and was truly a gentleman. He always saw the good in people. As his wife, I would like to let you know that Frank appreciated and enjoyed all your questions and correspondence through the years and your loyalty and support of our business, Frankly Golf, as we took our dream and made it real.

I will miss Frank terribly. He was the love of my life and my best friend. However, I look forward to working hard to continue Frank’s legacy and helping golfers into the future, which is what I promised him.

If you would like to leave a message below, it would be so nice to hear from you. I will be reading them all individually. Thank you.

Valerie Melvin

120 thoughts on “Frank Thomas 1939-2021

  1. Valerie, I just read the sad news. I never met either of you but I could tell just how special the relationship was. Frank was brilliant but seemed so warm and approachable. It is such a gift to find a love whom you respect and are respected for a lifetime. {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

  2. I am so sorry to hear of Frank’s passing. It was a pleasure to meet and interact with Frank and Valerie during their morning walk in Celebration. While I was fishing, Frank would always ask if I had caught my breakfast, and comment that I was in the “silly hat” club. Valerie, I apologize for the delay in these comments. I was unaware of the loss.

  3. So sorry to hear of Frank’s passing. As a high handicapped (19) putting is definitely the best part of my game. I recognize faithful reading Frank’s articles has helped my putting and thank him (and you) for that.

  4. Valerie,

    My prayers are being sent to God, the Father of all, on your behalf. Frank has joined the great entourage in heaven and will be missed by myself and others as they discover his passing. Rest assured that you are loved and that God will see you through both the good and bad in front of you. We all have an expiration date although we don’t want to admit it. Enjoy the peace and tranquillity that the Lord will send your way.

    You and Frank have been a weekly blessing to me and many other golfers as you have helped us all with tips to improve our game. I look forward to follow your journey. May God calm you and strengthen you in the weeks and years to come.

  5. Hi Valerie

    Apologies for not responding sooner and I realise at times like these that nothing we can say will change anything but I just wanted to reach out and say I am so sorry for your loss and my thoughts and prayers are with you. Frank was so generous with his time when we met in Carnoustie and again when I visited you in America, he truly loved the game and talking about it and that enthusiasm shone through in everything he did. It was a pleasure to have met him and I hope you are doing ok and if I can help in any small way please don’t hesitate to ask.

    Deepest sympathies

    Simon Race

    • Valerie, both you and Frank were so kind and helpful when getting out of a bunker I accidentally stepped on the shaft of my 08 Frog severely bending it and brought it to your putter hospital for repair. Frank replaced the shaft, and then both of you gave me free putting lesson. That Frog is now sad, but I am positive it will continue to putt well. Condolences on the loss of your husband and friend. Frank Fischer Winter Haven Florida

  6. So sorry. Your letter really moved me–I had no idea of the extent of Frank’s accomplishments. Truly inspiring.

    You may be interested in the multiple random intersections causing me to buy Frankly Golf putter covers over the years. First, my last name is Frank, and that’s the most obvious. But my wife, whom I met on a train 15 years ago, is a neuro-scientist who studies a particular South African frog! Clearly, those covers were meant for me.

    But now I appreciate them even more.

  7. So sorry to hear about Frank’s passing Valerie
    We used to enjoy our chats with you both when we passed walking around the lake
    Frank had a dry wit and we used to chuckle when he always referred to our children visiting asking if the immigrants were coming this year
    We are still stuck in the UK unable to get back to Celebration until restrictions are lifted
    Hope to see you again sometime and once again our deepest condolences

    Mike & Joan Wormald

  8. I am sorry for your loss. I met you both when I bought my first Frog. Frank did the fitting and you rang me up. Both of you seemed as genuine in person as you appear on your videos. I have enjoyed your videos, the information you have passed along and of course my Frankly Frog putter. 🐸 He will be missed. I wish you well in your next chapter of life.

  9. I am sorry to hear of Frank’s passing. He was a credit to the game of golf and will be sorely missed by all. I became a CPI 15 years ago and always looked forward to his interesting articles on your website. He was a true gentleman in every aspect of his life. Larry Murphy, PGA

  10. I’m saddened to hear of Frank’s passing and your loss. I have enjoyed listening to and reading Frank’s posts over the years.

  11. So sorry to hear about Frank. Knowing that he will always be with you, looking down and smiling as you move forward again in your life. Linda

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