Legend honored with fund

This feature was posted on our website shortly after Peggy Kirk Bell’s 90th birthday in 2011 and updated in March 2024.

How fitting to create the lasting legacy of an endowment to honor the woman who has arguably left the biggest legacy to women’s golf in the history of the game.

Peggy Kirk Bell

Peggy Kirk Bell was one of the most decorated, honored and respected female golfers of all time. Prestigious awards include the Bobby Jones Award, Joe Graffis Award, Richardson Award and many more. She is a member of both the Sports Hall of Fame in North Carolina and her native state of Ohio. She turned pro in 1950 and was among the original 12 pioneers of the LPGA.

When Bell turned 90 in 2011, her family was confounded about what they could possibly do for the nonagenarian who literally has everything she needs, including her own golf course!  Son-in-law Pat McGowan said they knew they had struck on the perfect tribute when they decided to create an endowment that will support some of the many causes she was interested in, including supporting the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls Golf Tour. This tour has become the largest girls-only tournament in the United States and operates through the Triad Youth Golf Foundation based in Greensboro.

“Establishing the Peggy Kirk Bell Foundation Endowment was the absolute best way to perpetuate her legacy,” McGowan said. Family and friends then set out to celebrate her birthday and begin to build fund balances with a two-day golf and gala event at Pine Needles.

This was not hard, as Bell’s “love and passion for people and the game of golf” have afforded her the opportunity to make many friends over the years, said McGowan. And her many friends reciprocated with generous tributes at the gala and afterwards.

Pine Needles and neighboring Mid Pines are two well-known golf resorts in the Sandhills that Bell and her late husband Bullet built together. Her family of two daughters, one son and their spouses run the business, with son-in-law Kelly Miller serving as president of Pine Needles. Even past the age of 90, she was still involved in her popular Golfari instruction experiences targeted to women.

While Bell was famous for her skill as a competitive golfer, she was equally renowned for her teaching. McGowan observed that it’s highly unusual for someone to be a top performer in both areas. “Usually great players can’t teach, and great teachers can’t play,” he said. “Peggy is different. She could do both.” Bell is the first woman in the nation to be inducted into the Golf Teachers Hall of Fame.

Bell’s many golf students over the years cannot say enough about her generous, highly effective teaching style. “I thank her every day for literally and figuratively giving me the gift of golf,” said Chris Haarlow, president of the Triad Youth Gold Foundation, which operates the girls tour in her name. “Just to be associated with her and her foundation is an honor,” he added. She started teaching him when he was nine. He attended Guilford College on a golf scholarship, has played pro and is now head instructor at Precision Golf School, PGA Class A professional and US Kids Master Top 50 Instructor.

“She has done so much for the game, but she never thinks of herself,” Haarlow said. “She is so humble that she actually thanks me for what I am doing for golf, and it’s only a fraction of what she has done over the years.”

Beth Boney Jenkins, NCCF staff member, said the Foundation was gratified to work with the family to establish the endowment. “It has truly been an inspiration to work with such a remarkable family to help honor such a legendary woman like Peggy Kirk Bell.”

Peggy Kirk Bell passed away on November 23, 2016, at the age of 95.