Dec. 3, 2012
Notre Dame, Ind. – Former Notre Dame men’s and women’s golf coach, George L. Thomas, died on Saturday, Dec. 1 at Elkhart Memorial Hospital from natural causes at the age of 87.
A PGA golf professional for 47 years, Thomas served as the men’s golf coach at Notre Dame from 1989 to 2001. During his 13 seasons as the men’s coach, Thomas won three Midwestern Collegiate Conference championships (1988-89, 1989-90 and 1994-95) along with three consecutive BIG EAST titles from 1995 to 1997. He was named coach of the year three times, taking the honor twice in the BIG EAST and once in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.
He was also helped find the Notre Dame women’s program as he teamed with Tom Hanlon as co-coaches when the program was elevated to varsity status in 1988 and remained in that role until 1993. He received an honorary membership into the Notre Dame National Monogram Club in 1999.
As a professional golfer, Thomas qualified for the U.S. Open twice (1965, 1976) and the PGA Championship once (1974). He has also appeared in the U.S. Senior Open from 1981-86. The Elkhart, Ind. native was inducted into the Indiana PGA Hall of Fame in 1979-80 and was the Indiana PGA Player of the Year three times (1970, 1973, 1977). He won a record seven Indiana Senior titles during his playing career and was a three-time U.S. Section Senior champion.
Thomas went on to spend 28 years as the PGA golf professional at Elcona Country Club in Bristol, Ind., and was selected by the Indiana Professional Golfers Association as section teacher of the year in 1990.
Born on Dec. 29, 1924 in Beirut, Lebanon to Victoria and George Thomas, he attended Elston High School in Michigan City where he was a standout athlete and was inducted into the high school’s hall of fame. He went on to serve in World War II as a B-17 navigator with the Eighth Air Corps and became a Second Lieutenant in the 306th Bombadier Group from 1943-46.
Following the war, Thomas accepted a football scholarship to Purdue University where he served as a back up quarterback to All-American Bob DeMoss. A four-year member of the Purdue golf team, Thomas was a member of the NCAA runner-up Purdue squad in 1950. He graduated from the Purdue School of Pharmacy and served as a pharmacist for 12 years while playing professional golf.
George is survived by his wife, Barbara A. (Smith) Thomas; children George Thomas, Scott (Ann Marie) Thomas, David (Theresa) Thomas, Joe (Cindy) Thomas and Theresa (Ken) Fry; and grandchildren George, Peter, Beatrice, Madeleine and Samuel Thomas, Catherine, Elizabeth, Andrew, Lucy and Jack Thomas, David, Michael, Caroline, Matthew, Melissa, Rachel, Grace, Theresa and Angela Thomas, Morgan, Joseph, Hannah and Luke Thomas, Victoria Pekarek, Cecilia Pekarek, Kate Fry and Sarah Fry.
Visitation for George will be from 3 to 6 p.m. today, Dec. 3, 2012, at Stemm-Lawson-Peterson Funeral Home, Elkhart. A private family ceremony will be at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Burial will follow in Cedar Grove Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to The Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation to find a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C: www.parseghian.org. Online condolences may be sent at www.stemmlawsonpeterson.com.