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Golf Icon Peggy Kirk Bell, 95, Changed the Game

Peggy Kirk Bell
Peggy Kirk Bell on the second floor of the golf club overlooking the Pine Needles Golf Course in Pinehurst. (Photo credit: Fayetteville Observer)

On Wednesday evening, with her family nearby, Peggy Kirk Bell passed away at age 95.

If you were fortunate enough to have known Mrs. Bell, it’s sad news but it comes with a caveat.

It’s impossible not to smile when you think about who Peggy Kirk Bell was and what she meant to golf and the people she touched.

She had a contagious passion for golf and a rare spirit that had a way of making you feel good just being around her. The game has had its share of giants and she is one of those giants.

She was like Arnold Palmer in the way she connected with people. Golf provided the introduction but her personality did the rest.

Because of her talent, her will and her spirit, Mrs. Bell changed the game.

She was instrumental in creating the LPGA along with her friend Babe Didrickson Zaharias and others. She flew her own plane for a time, she loved cars and with her husband Warren ‘Bullet’ Bell, bought Pine Needles Resort decades ago and turned it into one of the sweetest spots in the game.

It wasn’t unusual to find her walking through the lunch room at Pine Needles, giving impromptu lessons to her guests, sometimes drawing on her golf glove to make a point.

She had the gift of making golf sound simple. She was a brilliant player, winning multiple titles including the 1949 Titleholders, a major championship at the time.

Three times – 1996, 2001 and 2007 – the U.S. Women’s Open was played at Pine Needles. It was a testament to what Pine Needles has become but more importantly it was a nod to what Peggy Kirk Bell has meant to the game.

To sit and talk with Mrs. Bell – or even better was to take a ride in her convertible Lincoln around Pine Needles – was to hear the game and its history come alive. She didn’t live in the past but she helped clear the path to today.

With her children Bonnie, Peggy and Kirk, along with in-laws Kelly Miller and Pat McGowan, she was the matriarch of the first family of golf in the Carolinas.

She lived 95 rich years.

What she did and who she was lives on.





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