Former technical director oversaw game’s standards as equipment revolution of late 20th century redefined golf’s boundaries
Died: Frank Thomas, who led the USGA’s oversight of golf equipment for the last quarter of the 20th century, on March 17, a few days after having suffered a heart attack, according to a report by Golf Digest’s Mike Stachura and E. Michael Johnson. He was 83. As the senior technical director, Thomas, a native of South Africa, led the USGA’s equipment research from 1974 to 2000, trying to balance the game’s traditions against a technological revolution. Thomas understood that revolution because he had been a part of it before joining the USGA. Backed by a degree in engineering, Thomas developed the filament-winding technique for graphite fibers around a mandrel, allowing for the torsional-bending properties of a lightweight golf shaft. With the USGA, he developed many of the rules and standards that define the boundaries of modern golf equipment. Oftentimes, the standards that he helped write led to legal disputes between the USGA and manufacturers. Perhaps the most high-profile during his tenure pitted the game’s governing body against Ping and the “square grooves” of its Eye2 irons. The $300 million anti-trust lawsuit, filed in 1985, was settled five years later after Ping waived its legal rights as Thomas and the USGA continued to police the game’s standards.
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