Longtime top amateur Peggy Kirk Bell, a proponent for women's golf, dies at 95

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -- Peggy Kirk Bell, a leading golf instructor who owned Pine Needles Resort and spent a lifetime as the premier advocate for women's golf, has died at her home at Pine Needles. She was 95.

Kelly Miller, her son-in-law and the club president at Pine Needles and Mid Pines, informed club members that she died Wednesday. The Pilot newspaper first reported Kirk Bell's death.

Kirk Bell was one of the top amateurs in women's golf in the years before the LPGA Tour was formed. She won the Ohio Amateur three times, captured the 1949 Titleholders by two shots over Patty Berg, and won the North and South Women's Amateur. She also played on the 1950 Curtis Cup team.

She and her late husband, Warren Bell, bought the Pine Needles Resort and developed it into a top destination. Pine Needles held the U.S. Women's Open three times; the winners were Annika Sorenstam in 1996, Karrie Webb in 2001 and Cristie Kerr in 2007.

"A legend in the game. You were a special person in my life. You will be missed," Kerr tweeted.

The Bell family later purchased Mid Pines.

A native of Findlay, Ohio, Kirk Bell was a gifted athlete with limited playing opportunities. She wanted to teach physical education and tried golf at age 17.

"I found it more of a challenge than any sport I'd tried," she said in "The Gift of Golf," a biography about her. "You simply couldn't haul off and slam the ball like you would a softball. It took dexterity, but you had to apply it properly. Power was nothing without timing in golf."

Kirk Bell attended Rollins College in Florida and built an impressive amateur career.

She got married in 1953, and the Bells bought Pine Needles. Kirk Bell helped developed a concept called "Golfaris," golf instruction taught by women for women. She was a member of seven Halls of Fame and was the first woman inducted to the PGA Golf Instructors Hall of Fame. The USGA awarded her the Bob Jones Award in 1990, its highest honor. She also served as chair of the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls Golf Tour, the largest circuit for young women.

A memorial service was scheduled for Tuesday at Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church.