Peggy Kirk Bell, Women's Golf Pioneer, Dies at 95
24 Nov 2016
by Pete Wlodkowski of AmateurGolf.com

Peggy Kirk Bell (LPGA photo)
Peggy Kirk Bell (LPGA photo)

SOUTHERN PINES, North Carolina (November 23, 2016) -- Peggy Kirk Bell, a legendary player, teacher, and course operator passed away Wednesday night at the age of 95.

Visitors to the Pine Needles-Mid Pines Resort remember Mrs. Bell as a quick-witted advocate of women's golf, who helped thousands of learn the game at total-immersion golf schools called "Golfaris." Her trophies and Titleholders championship jacket line the display cases of the resort; one of the most interesting is an understated typewritten item from the 1950s.

Printed on off-white paper stock and not much bigger than a standard business card, it is Mrs. Bell's identification as a charter member of the LPGA Tour.

In a statement to Pine Needles and Mid Pines members, Pine Needles-Mid Pines CEO and Mrs. Bell's son-in-law, Kelly Miller said, "She was a great lady and loved seeing and being around each and every one of you.

"Mr. & Mrs. Bell literally built the Pine Needles Lodges and most of the facilities here that you and others enjoy today. Her spirit continues today thru each of you, for which the entire family is very thankful for. I know many of you who knew Mrs. Bell have a great “Ma Bell” story. Thank you for providing her so much joy, so much laughter, and so much love."

Bell was born in Findlay, Ohio and took up the game at 17, and it came to her quickly. She played golf at Rollins College, and before turing professional enjoyed a run of success in the amateur game that included winning three Ohio Amateurs, the 1949 Titleholders Championship, and the North and South Women's Amateur. Bell was also a member of the 1950 U.S.A. Curtis Cup team.

In 1953 she married her high school sweetheart, Warren "Bullet" Bell, who had played professional basketball with the Fort Wayne Pistons before turning to business. It was with Warren, who died in 1984, that she purchased the Pine Needles Resort.

In 1990, Mrs. Bell was given the USGA's Bob Jones Award, in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. She became the first woman voted into the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame in 2002.

Along the journey of her illustrious playing and teaching career, she entertained and played with a rich cast of characters.

According to "The Pilot" of Moore County:

"Bing Crosby serenaded her in the Pine Needles bar. Perry Como played her course. Jimmy Carter stayed at the Lodge during the National Governors’ Convention. Rudy Vallee was a guest and she played with Jackie Gleason, Michael Jordan, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor."

I am sure that Mrs. Bell charmed them all, just as she did me when I wished her a happy birthday three years ago. "I'm just 92 years old," she proudly told me with a wry smile. That was just after she signed the scorecard of my friend Andrew Zacks, who she congratulated for making an ace on her course that day, and following it with an eagle two holes later.

The Pine Needles and Mid Pines Resort has been left in good hands, with Bell's son-in-law Kelly Miller at the helm and her other son-in-law (former PGA Tour Player) Pat McGowan heading up instruction. Both Donald Ross courses have recently undergone major restoration projects, with the Mid Pines course winning a restoration of the year award a few years back.

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