Pinehurst Heritage Archive

The Day Ma Bell Crashed the Party at Pinehurst

Peggy Kirk Bell Photo Courtesy of the Tufts Archives

Peggy Kirk Bell at Pinehurst – Photo Courtesy of the Tufts Archives

When Peggy Kirk Bell first heard of Pinehurst, she knew she had to find a way to play in the great North & South Amateur. And so she showed up without invitation. The rest is golf history.

By LEE PACE

Peggy Kirk was an aspiring young golfer at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., in the early 1940s. She looked up to the talents of established players like Estelle Lawson Page, Glenna Collett and Maureen Orcutt and followed the amateur golf news in the local papers.

One spring a notice about the Women’s North and South Amateur caught her eye.

“I loved golf and I’d heard that Pinehurst was the golf capital of the world,” she says. “I said, ‘Gosh, I need to go play in that tournament.’”

“I loved golf and I’d heard that Pinehurst was the golf capital of the world.” -Peggy Kirk Bell

So she packed a bag and grabbed her golf clubs and set off northward in her ’41 Packard convertible. Miss Kirk arrived in Pinehurst without mishap, found the country club and presented herself at the tournament desk in the clubhouse.

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Payne, the 1998 U.S. Open, and The Divot

Payne Stewart walks down the fairway during the 1999 U.S. Open in this image captured by Peter Franchella.

Payne Stewart walks down the fairway during the 1999 U.S. Open in this image captured by Peter Franchella.

By LEE PACE

Payne Stewart made a remarkable personal metamorphosis over the 1990s. Always a graceful and talented performer on the course, Stewart as a young tour pro wasn’t universally embraced away from the course as his somewhat bratty, churlish ways rubbed many he encountered the wrong way.

A variety of circumstances and lessons conspired over the 1990s to soften and smooth the edges, and the 42-year-old Stewart who came to Pinehurst for the 1999 U.S. Open was significantly more humble and likeable than the one who won the 1991 Open at Hazeltine.

“Payne had really come full circle from the person I knew when I first met him. He was quite a man.” -Caddie Mike Hicks

Payne II, wrote John Garrity in Sports Illustrated, was “a quieter version of Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning.”

“Payne had really come full circle from the person I knew when I first met him,” adds caddie Mike Hicks, who worked for Stewart from 1988 through Stewart’s death in the fall of 1999. “He was quite a man.”

That evolution of Payne Stewart is perhaps best illustrated in the story of the divots of Olympic 1998 and Pinehurst 1999.

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Gary Player in His Words: Pinehurst’s Grand History

On his recent visit to Pinehurst, the great Gary Player took a few moments to tell us about his history with Pinehurst, what moves him most when he comes to the Cradle of American Golf (hint, it’s not the golf; it’s the people), and the true passions in his life.

Of course, we did talk some golf, including Mr. Player’s memories of Payne Stewart’s triumph at the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, and got to watch him do what he does best – recover from a bunker.

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VIDEO: Gary Player reflects on Payne Stewart’s legacy

We didn’t ask Gary Player about Payne Stewart and the remarkable 1999 U.S. Open.

Instead, Mr. Player, the 1966 recipient of the Bob Jones Award, insisted he be allowed a few moments to reflect on Stewart’s lasting legacy at Pinehurst. What a gesture made in the name of the 2014 Bob Jones Award honoree, Payne Stewart. 

And then later, Mr. Player called his shot…

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Gary Player Calls His Shot at Pinehurst

Gary Player, the 9-time major champion and world class humanitarian, visited Pinehurst recently. And not surprisingly, the greatest bunker player who’s ever lived jumped into one of Pinehurst’s many bunkers near famed Maniac Hill to hit a few shots.

Also not surprising, Player knew a good shot when he saw it.

This is just the first in several videos of Player at Pinehurst we will share throughout the week. Check back here for more.

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