In 2016, Moore County lost one of its most celebrated residents. Peggy Kirk Bell, an icon of women’s golf and matriarch of two of Moore County’s signature golf properties, passed away on Nov. 23 in Southern Pines. She was 95.
Bell was an inspirational player, instructor, and advocate and considered one of the pioneers in women’s golf. She was well-known in Moore County for her prominent leadership of the Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines. She and her husband, the late Warren Bell, bought the resort in 1953.
Bell discovered golf at the age of 17, and with a natural talent for the sport, she won several tournaments in the 1940s and 1950s. She turned professional in 1950, and gave her first golf lesson in 1954.
She and Mr. Bell turned Pine Needles into a world-class resort and renowned golf academy where she earned distinction as one of the country’s best golf instructors, evidenced by 3 national golf magazines naming her as such. She developed the Golfari – “safari of golf” – the first women’s golf school that still today features a week-long mix of instruction and fun on Pine Needles’ and Mid Pines Golf Club’s Donald Ross-designed courses. In 1994 the Bells bought Mid Pines Golf Club also in Southern Pines. Both courses consistently rank among the top courses in the state.
During her lifetime, Bell was inducted into numerous halls of fame, including the Hancock Sports Hall of Fame in 1985, and she was the first woman to be inducted into both the PGA Golf Instructors Hall of Fame and the Carolinas PGA Hall of Fame. She was also honored with many awards including the USGA’s highest honor, the Bob Jones Award in 1990.
Bell is largely credited with being the driving force behind Pine Needles hosting three U.S. Women’s Open Championships over an 11-year span – 1996, 2001 and 2007. Southern Pines Mayor David McNeill said that is a testament to Bell’s prominence.
“She solidified Southern Pines as a golfing destination,” McNeill said. “Golfers from around the world return each year to Pine Needles and Mid Pines because Mrs. Bell treated everyone like royalty and made golf fun.”
Kelly Miller, Bell’s son-in-law and current President of both Pine Needles and Mid Pines, said “Mr. and Mrs. Bell literally built the Pine Needles Lodges and most of the facilities here” that draw thousands of golfers each year.
A glass case in the lobby of Pine Needles pays tribute to her lifetime of excellence. Trophies, plaques, scorecards and other keepsakes on display show the impact she had on the game.
Her legacy will continue through the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls Tour that she started in 2007. It is the largest girls-only tour in the nation featuring both elite division and developmental division tournaments for girls aged 12 to 18. There is also collegiate series for ages 19-25.
She was well-loved and will always be remembered in our community!