Westwood Resident is MIAA Women's Golf Coach of the Year
By Caroline Killilea, News Intern
Ursuline Academy Golf Team’s Head Coach and Westwood resident Linda Healy was named MIAA Women’s Golf Coach of the Year this past December, after leading the team to the school’s first golf state championship title in June.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association recognizes one high school athletics coach in each sport every year for his or her excellence in character, leadership, service, and coaching. Coaches were honored at an annual awards dinner in Milford.
“I was very surprised.” Healy says of hearing the news she had been selected. “When you find something that you enjoy so much and then you get recognized for it, it really is a beautiful thing.”
During the 2022 season, Coach Healy led the team to the first state tournament victory in Ursuline golf history. The championship certainly came with its fair share of challenges. It was held at the pristine yet windy Eastward Ho! Country Club in Chatham, which was the most difficult course the team encountered all season. It is also the home course for Monomoy Regional School District, the tournament’s runner-up.
When Ursuline shot a total score of 390, just four points fewer than Monomoy, it came as a definite surprise. “It was nice to have it as a surprise a little bit. The expectation wasn’t really there,” says Healy of the win.
She notes that the team’s success came from the players’ drive. Captains Lily King and Alex Wright were “very determined. They wanted to have fun and enjoy the sport but they also really wanted to win.” She also says that Wright, who is from Milton, “was the big push this year to really win. . . . She actually scored about 10-12 strokes better than she had all season, and that’s huge.”
The girls also put consistent effort into their practices and focused on being steady and strong in their matches. Healy attributes this motivation to Victoria Veator, also a captain and the team’s number one player. Veator, who is from Bridgewater, inspired her teammates and helped lead the team to victory with her commitment and dedication to the sport.
Coach Healy is an avid golfer herself. She started playing at just 11 years old at a course in her hometown in Maine, and she took up the sport because her parents were trying to occupy her and her brother for the summer. In high school, she won the 1982 Maine State Championship. She now plays out of Norfolk Golf Club in Westwood, where she is the Director of Treasury, and has also served on the Renovation Committee and as the Treasurer for the Women’s Association.
Coach Healy and her family moved to Westwood in 2009 for the town’s excellent schools and close proximity to Boston. She shares that she has loved the opportunity to get to know other families through the school system, and to be part of such an interconnected community. When not coaching or playing golf, she enjoys spending time with her husband, four children, and Wheaten terrier named Maggie. She also likes to ski, play pickleball, and practice yoga.
One of her favorite parts of the job is getting to know the girls. “I love talking with them,” she says. “I love their enthusiasm.” Being a mom to three daughters herself has taught her about the challenges high school girls can face, especially with confidence and self-advocacy.
“I think that golf prepares you for the outdoor world more than a lot of sports, because you don’t have referees. You have to make your own decisions on refereeing, your game, and someone else’s game. One of the things that I always work on with the girls is they have to call out if another girl has misread their putts or their score for a hole,” she says. She wants them to learn to be independent and to advocate for themselves, even when it proves difficult.
When asked about who has had the greatest impact on her career, Healy noted that she was inspired to coach golf by her older brother, Brian Bickford. He was previously a golf professional at the course where he and Coach Healy both learned to play, and also heads the Maine State Golf Association. He is a golf coach himself, and his role in expanding his course’s program for junior golfers led Healy to follow in his footsteps.
“I saw how much he enjoyed it, especially teaching the young. . . and how much I think young kids can benefit from playing the game,”she says.
She took on the role of head coach at Ursuline in 2018. She works closely with the school’s athletic director Mike O’Connor, who has been a great source of support for Healy, and who she feels “has just really taught [her] a lot.”
In terms of her philosophy, Coach Healy encourages her golfers to not only play as individuals, but to work as a team. She also makes sure the girls have fun along the way, and wants them to genuinely enjoy playing the sport.
Captain Victoria Veator notes, “She constantly reassures us that the only thing we can do is play our best and see where that takes us at the end of the day.”
Healy’s favorite part of coaching has been watching her players grow. When they join the team as young seventh graders, they are often quiet and reserved.
“I find high school to be so much of a challenge for girls to have confidence, and to have the confidence to be on the golf team because it’s not really a popular sport,” she says. She aims to guide them in becoming strong, unique athletes. She has loved seeing them morph into confident young women by the time they are graduating seniors.
As for the upcoming season, Healy is motivated to continue the team’s forward momentum. She is excited to get back on the green, and looks forward to the hunt for a second championship title.
Thanks to Caroline Killilea for writing this article and thanks to Linda Healy and Victoria Veator for providing interviews.
Are you a student who is interested in getting experience as a reporter? Email a statement of interest to Darlene Wong Cancell, editor, at WestwoodInAMinute@gmail.com.