As the induction of amateur golf legend Peggy Kirk Bell into the World Golf Hall of Fame draws closer, Essential Golf looks back at the life and career of a pioneering advocate for women’s golf.
Full name: Margaret Anne Kirk Bell
Born: October 28, 1921
Died: November 23, 2016
Hometown: Findlay, Ohio
Turned pro: 1950
Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame: 2019
A gifted athlete and aspiring physical education teacher, Kirk Bell fell in love with golf at the age of 17 with no intention of making the game her profession. She played college golf at Rollins College and quickly secured a number of titles. Her career would go on to span seven decades.
Although she never won a tournament as a professional, Kirk Bell was, as an amateur, one of the most outstanding golfers in women’s golf in the years before the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour was formed. She left behind one of the most impressive amateur records ever compiled.
The star won the Ohio Amateur championship three times, along with the North and South Amateur in Pinehurst. Competing as “Peggy Kirk” at the time, she went on to become a charter member of the LPGA in 1950, after winning the 1949 Titleholders championship by two shots over Patty Berg. She also played on the winning 1950 Curtis Cup team and was a member of the 1951 Weathervane International Team.
In 1990, Kirk Bell was voted the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the United States Golf Association in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. She also received the PGA of America’s First Lady of Golf Award in 2007.
An avid supporter of the game as a top 100 golf instructor, she became the first woman selected into Golf Magazine’s World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame.
A lifetime of success and devotion to teaching will see her honored at the World Golf Hall of Fame Ceremony on June 10, 2019 in Pebble Beach—the week of the men’s U.S Open Championship.
When she finished her career, Kirk Bell started writing articles for Golf Magazine. In 1966, she wrote the book Women’s Way to Better Golf, remaining a strong advocate and inspiration for women in the game and helping to develop the concept “Golfaris”— golf instruction taught by women for women.
Together with her late husband Warren Bell, who had played professional basketball with the Fort Wayne Pistons before turning to business, Kirk Bell owned the Pines Needles Resort in Southern Pines, California. The family developed it into a top destination, with Pine Needles holding the US Women’s Open three times (1996, 2001 and 2007). She died there in 2016 at the age of 95.
Her older daughter, Bonnie, is married to former PGA Tour member Pat McGowan.
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The Life and Legacy of Billy Payne