April 15, 2009

Peggy Kirk Bell: These Girls Can Play Too

Let me brag about one of our own here in the Carolinas:

One of our area's golfing gems is Peggy Kirk Bell, a founding member of the LPGA, the owner of Pine Needles Golf Resort in Southern Pines (it's down the street from Pinehurst) -- the site of the 1996, 2001 and 2007 US Women's Open, and an unabashed supporter of the women's game all the way from the top to its grass roots: women taking up the game and talented teenage women who need a place to compete and hone their games prior to their going to college.

(Pictured: Bell, left, with Babe Zaharias, right)

Ms. Bell first took up golf at 17. She got a membership to a golf club by chance, even though she didn't know anyone personally who played. In fact, she thought of golf as "an old woman's game." Little did she know that she had stumbled into the game of a lifetime, and that she would be playing it nigh on seventy years later.

Ms. Bell learned the game quickly, and well. She won the International Four-Ball in 1947 with pioneering sportswoman Babe Zaharias as her partner, as well as the first of three consecutive Ohio State championships. She totalled 10 tournament wins, among them the the North/South Amateur and the Titleholders in 1949. And she became a pioneer member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).

In 1953, she left competitive golf and with her husband bought the Pine Needles Golf Result here in North Carolina, a Donald Ross cathedral to the game. The Needles is a place that golf writer Brandon Tucker said that he would "rather play than Oakmont."

Peggy started the Ladies Golfaris (a golf safari) in 1960, and it has run for nearly fifty years.

Peggy also helped set up the Peggy Kirk Bell Tour here in the Carolinas, whose mission is to
  • To ensure the future of the game by providing a “Girls Only Tour” that will actively increase participation and interest in girl’s golf
  • To provide a venue for aspiring collegiate golfers in the Carolina’s to develop, compete and be recognized.
  • To provide affordable, top-level tournament competition
That they do with aplomb, and the PKBT is a growing training ground for tomorrow's collegiate women's golfers, some of whom will undoubtedly make it in to the LPGA itself.

The tour stopped here in Raleigh last weekend, at a course on the other side of the city from me:
The Peggy Kirk Bell Girls Golf Tour was in Raleigh this weekend for the Wildwood Shoot Out at Wildwood Green Golf club.

The strong winds kept the girls from firing any sub-par scores, but Raleigh's Sarah Bae posted a score of 75 for the victory.

Wildwood Green is a good course for competition - not overly penal, but tough enough to score on to make tournaments interesting. Sounds like the girls had a bit of a tough time in the strong breezes we had Saturday and got a taste of competing under trying conditions, which will serve them well at some point in their golfing future.

Thanks to Ms. Bell for helping to get the ball rolling in this venture and thanks to her for her fine golf courses (Pine Needles and Mid-Pines) as well as everything else she has done for the game. Pine Needles is a course I can play again and again, and never feel like I have completely solved all of its puzzles. It's the course I got my first eagle on, many years ago, and I love it like it were my home course.

Want to know more about Peggy?

Take a few minutes and read about her in her own words.
Here's a radio interview with her from NPR's "The Story" (MP3 format)


  1. I have gone on golf trips (in the 1980's) to Pine Needles and she is a first-class lady. Also, very hands on with every aspect of her little resort. I remember enjoying the courses also. Her son-in-law, Patrick (???) was an excellent golfer who played a little bit on the big tour, I think...

  2. Yes, Pat McGowan. He's married to Peggy's youngest daughter Bonnie. If I recall correctly, they have a couple of daughters starting to make their own waves.


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