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

118 thoughts on “Frank Thomas 1939-2021

  1. I am so terribly saddened to hear of Frank’s passing! As I sit here on my lanai overlooking San Carlos Bay I can see my Frankly Frog putter which I was just practicing with a few minutes ago before I read this. I have always enjoyed his thoughtful answers to questions on the website.He was an invaluable source of information to us all!
    May God bless and comfort you in your loss! John McDonald, Sanibel Island FL

  2. I am shocked and saddened to read of Frank’s sudden passing and although living in Ireland felt a closeness due to the clarity and depth of knowledge shown consistently in dealing with concepts that I found difficult to follow otherwise. I have quoted Frank in many discussions to good effect and wish you many fond memories of your time together and continued success with your business
    Best regards

    William

  3. Valerie
    I am so sorry for your loss. Every day I looked forward to reading and watching Frank’s and your instructions. I have his book and enjoy it .I’m sure you will continue providing us with his and your passion for the game.

  4. Valerie, we are so sorry to hear of Frank’s passing. Have followed you guys for many years and have really appreciated your combined comments to improve our games. My wife and I met you on one of your daily walks a few years ago while we were riding our bikes in Celebration ( we were lost!). Our sincere condolences. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this time. Doug and Elizabeth Scale

  5. I can’t tell you how sad I was to learn this sad news yesterday…..I looked forward to his emails on golf and was so impressed with the way he approached the game, equipment issues and life…I truly great guy!!..I have every book and as many of his putters I could acquire and still remain married to the same woman for 47 years!!!…We all lose on this one…the only thing that will make it even a little better for all of us is the passage of time…I’m a better person and a better golfer for having him touch my life in the miniscule way I was so lucky to have had. Be safe & Healthy!

    • Dear Valerie,
      I am so sorry for your sudden loss. I hope you can stay strong and take care of your health.
      Thank you for your wonderful tribute to Frank.
      I am pleased to note that you will continue with your business – there’s no better way to honour Frank’s memory.
      All good wishes, Tony.

  6. Valerie,
    I am very sad to hear Frank passed away.
    From what you wrote he led a fantastic life and achieved so much.
    I am thinking of you at this time and wish you all the best.
    Kind regards
    Rob

  7. Valerie, so sad to hear of Frank’s passing. As a retired engineer, I always enjoyed Frank’s pragmatic comments on equipment and golfs latest fads. His book “Just Hit It” remains on my shelf. I’m still using my Frankly Frog putter that I purchased from you after you gave me a putting lesson at Championsgate many years ago.
    Frank made great contributions to the game of golf. Stay well.

  8. Frank left a huge mark on the Game. We met in the late ’70’s and later collaborated with the research team Frank assembled in advancing the Obstacle Course Rating System and Slope.
    He was a captivating speaker. Will always remember the talk he gave at Seattle GC–best one ever.
    I doubt the Game would be hotly debating distance issues had Frank stayed at the USGA. He was not shy in sharing his strong opinion. I enjoyed walking the floors of golf merchandise shows with him. He was the EF Hutton of golf. When he talked, all listened.
    Just closed my eyes for a minute and thought about him. When I opened them, was smiling. Frank was a good man and happily, my friend.

  9. We are shocked and saddened to hear about Frank. Bumping into you and Frank on our daily walks always brightened our day. We will always have fond memories of our chats and I will always cherish my frog putter – it now bring memories of Frank on every putt. Our thoughts are with you.

  10. Valerie, I’m so sorry to hear the sad news of Frank’s death. It was such a great experience in my life to meet you and Frank and wok with you for a time. From my view, it was clear that Frank had “a life well lived”…a life that directly and indirectly touched thousands of people. What a great legacy he leaves with his positive impact on the golf world and on a game that millions of us love so much. I know you will miss him immeasurably…but you will carry on just as he would have wanted. My most sincere sympathies. I am so sad of his passing but I feel honored to have crossed paths with him on our life’s journey. Blessings to you Valerie.

  11. Hi Valerie. It’s been a long time since we last spoke. You and Frank provided some of my best memories of being in the golf business. What a life he lived and he did so many amazing things. I remember how refreshing it was to finally speak to someone who talked about golf issues in scientific and engineering terms vs touch and feel. He was one of a kind. I am so sorry for your loss. Take care.

  12. So sorry to hear about Frank’s passing. I have enjoyed and followed his commentary through the years. He was truly an icon in the game of golf and life. I had always hoped to meet you 2, I enjoyed Frankly Golf. Who knows, maybe someday on the great course in the sky!You have my deepest sympathies….

  13. again so so sorry for you huge adjustment he will surely be looking down on you and caring deeply, Honoured to have known you guys like we have
    lotsa love Sheena & DJ

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