Kirk makes a memorable first impression
Peggy Kirk crashed the party the first time she visited Pinehurst at 22 years old.
The Rollins College student heard about the North & South Women’s Amateur and decided she’d like to play so, naturally, she threw her clubs into her ’41 Packard convertible and headed North.
“I loved golf and I’d heard that Pinehurst was the golf capital of the world,” she said. “I said, ‘Gosh, I need to go play in that tournament.’”
But Kirk was in for a surprise.
When she walked into the clubhouse to register, she was asked for her invitation.
“Invitation?” she asked. “I’m sorry, gee, I’m just a college kid, I read about it and thought I’d like to play in it.”
The official excused himself for a moment and reappeared with a man donning wire-rimmed glasses.
“Hello,” he said. “I’m Richard Tufts, and I’d like to extend an invitation to you to play in the North & South.”
When Lee Pace interviewed Kirk, now Peggy Kirk Bell, for his book “Pinehurst Stories: A Celebration of Great Golf and Good Times,” she doubled over in laughter thinking about that day.
“My first trip to Pinehurst and I crash the party,” she said. “I was soooo green. I just thought it was a tournament that you paid your $5 and played. I was so embarrassed I could have died. There wasn’t even an entry fee!”
It wouldn’t take long for Bell to establish her credentials as one of the best players in amateur golf and later one of the pioneering members of the fledging LPGA tour. In 1949, she won the Palm Beach Championship and the Titleholders, the ladies’ version of the Masters held at Augusta Country Club. Then it was on to Pinehurst in late April for the North and South.
“The women had played on course No. 3 every year,” Peggy says. “It was a good course but it was short. We kept saying we wish they’d put us on the ‘big course’—No. 2. Finally they did in 1949. There was a lot of excitement that year playing on No. 2.”
Peggy bested a field of 64 players to win that North and South, including a 1-up semifinal win over Estelle Page, one of the top players in the game. She then defeated the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, Grace Lenczyk, in the championship match by a 5-and-4 margin.