Former professional golfer Linda Chen served as president of Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, Wash. for nearly three years. She started the same week in June 2015 that the U.S. Open was being held at Chambers Bay in nearby University Place.
“It was obviously an exciting event right in the backyard of my new home town,” she said. “That week I sent a tweet to Jordan Spieth, telling him to win it for the Longhorns.” (Which he of course then did.)
Chen attended the University of Texas (same as Spieth) on a golf scholarship in the early 1990s. “I was there the same time Justin Leonard was playing for the men’s team.”
After college, Chen tried her hand playing professionally on various mini-tours and also the Asian Tour, but never found much success or much satisfaction. “I love the game and loved competing, but at that level it was not a fulfilling path for me.”
Settling in Orlando, Fla., Linda began working as a consultant for sports and entertainment figures, but when her consultancy picked up Orlando Health as a client, she became enamored with the challenges of health care, and in 2010 took a job as chief network and market officer at Florida Hospital for Children. Along the way she earned an MBA from Florida’s Stetson University.
“I was really drawn by the passion that these people had for pediatrics, and finding what’s best for children. I completely identified with it, and felt I’d found the same kind of passion I used to have for my golf game during my competitive days.”
Chen says golf has been sort of a second parent in her life. “It has taught me a lot of life lessons that are so foundational to who I am, and it correlates so well with the business world and how to address issues. I’ve never been a ‘down the middle and two putts for par’ kind of person. I’ve been a scrambler, and there are times when you get into the rough and you have to find creative ways to make a par.”
In her time at Mary Bridge, Linda built relationships and strategic partnerships that aligned with the hospital and health network’s mission to deliver the best possible care for children.
“Part of my role at Mary Bridge was to become involved with the community, and with my background in golf, it was natural that I became involved with the local First Tee chapter,” says Chen, who served on the board of The First Tee of South Puget Sound.
While at Florida Hospital for Children, Chen was instrumental in collaborating with Annika Sorenstam in creating The First Tee Nine Healthy Habits to promote healthy, active lifestyles for young people, a program that has since gone nationwide among First Tee chapters.
Chen left Mary Bridge in 2018, and moved back to Orlando where she has resumed her career as a consultant.
(This article has been updated from a previous article published in Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine.)