It was back in 1964, the year the Beatles landed in the United States and performed on the Ed Sullivan Show, when Harold Williams began teaching at the Franklin Junior High School. Two years later he moved over to the High School to teach US History and Social Studies and his life would never be the same again.
After being at the high school for one year Williams signed on to be the Panthers defensive football coach, a position he held for 13 years (1967-77 and 81-84), where Franklin put together a string of 32 consecutive wins and captured a Super Bowl in the fall of 82. In addition to football Williams also coached basketball for three years and golf for an amazing 35 seasons.
Williams coached Franklin golfers from 1967-80 before deciding to leave his teaching position for a job in the real estate field. Following a five year stint selling houses Williams returned to teaching at the high school and reestablished himself as the golf coach, a position he held from 1991 to the present year.
When the Panther’s season came to a close this fall, so did Williams’ coaching career. During his 35 years on the links Williams’ coached teams were able to amass 394 victories to 162 loses and 10 ties. His teams captured 8 Division 2 Championships and 4 State Titles, in addition to numerous Franklin golfers winning individual state championships.
“It was time to call it a day. I have a shoulder operation scheduled and need some work done on my knee,” he said. “It’s still fun to play, but I’m getting sore. Besides, I have a grandchild (his first) who just turned one this November, and it’s time to spend time with my family. It was an enjoyable trip but an easy decision to make at this time.”
While during a 35 year span a coach can earn many accolades with the teams he puts out onto the course, but Williams is modest about his career. While he is pleased with the titles Franklin has won during his tenure as their leader, the coach is much more interested in the kids he was able to develop into golfers.
“One of the things that brings great pleasure to me is the number of athletes that have gone on to make names for themselves like Peter Maki, Kevin Coullibus and Peter French (who won individual state championships),” Williams said. “And others like Anthony Maki (Franklin Country Club Golf Pro), Brian Higgins (2x MGA Player of the Year) and Pamela Kerrigan (our score keeper who went on to become the LPGA Rookie of the Year at the age of 32) who made a name for themselves in the golfing world.”
This year’s squad made Williams especially proud as he entered the realm of retirement. Franklin fielded a team with a lot of young and inexperienced players who didn’t get to tee off all that much last fall. Somehow they all put it together this year and went undefeated (8-0)) at home while only losing three matches on the season.
Funny as it may seem Williams was never really into golf and didn’t even pick up a club until his late 20’s.
“I never got into golf until I was 27,” he said. “I joined the Franklin Country Club and soon after the high school was in need of a golf coach. I figured I can handle that and 35 years later I’m still there.”
Williams went to a business college before attending North Adams, which is now the Mass College of Liberal Arts, to play sports (soccer, basketball and baseball) – not golf. His best sport at the time was baseball where he was an outfielder who hit .350, but it was his younger brother who turned pro.
“My younger brother signed with the Baltimore Orioles as a third baseman, unfortunately they already had an up and coming young third baseman named Brooks Robinson,” Williams said. “I knew my limitations – I was not a power hitting outfielder so I didn’t go far in baseball.”
As Williams rides off into the sunset to enjoy time with his family he does want to thank the Franklin Country Club, who has been with him the entire journey that allowed him to encourage and teach the Franklin athletes the game of golf.