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April 06, 2007

Driving 'Em Straight


It's Masters Tournament weekend -- an event that golf fans everywhere await with bated breath.

Dick Gordon takes to the links himself with one of golf's famed players and teachers, Peggy Kirk Bell, who is now 85. She gives Dick a lesson, and tells him stories from her decades in the sport.

When Peggy started playing, she was 17. She got a membership to a golf club through happenstance, and she didn't know anyone personally who played. In fact, she thought of golf as "an old woman's game."

But there were a lot of cute caddies around. I used to go out with this one caddy. He would caddy with me for nothing. We'd get on the third hole, and then we'd play. 
- Peggy Kirk Bell

As a young hotshot, she put a sponsor's logo on the tail of her airplane because the sponsor gave her free shoes. She recalls piloting her plane for famed Olympic athlete and fellow golfer, Babe Didrikson. Their golf attire? Long dresses that buttoned. Up the back.

Peggy will be honored in May as the 2007 PGA First Lady of Golf. She is a celebrated teacher of the game, and she owns her own golf course, Pine Needles, which will host the 2007 LPGA U.S. Women's Open Championship. 

This story was suggested to us by listener Carole Runyan, who is interested in sports, and is, among other things, a professor of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of North Carolina.

Here's what she said:

I just returned from a UNC golf event this weekend at Pine Needles Country Club in Southern Pines where I had the opportunity to speak with Peggy Kirk Bell -- the owner of Pine Needles and one of the originators of the Ladies PGA. Now in her 80s, Ms. Bell is a gem -- still teaching actively and full of stories of the first generation of women professional golfers. It was such a thrill for me, as someone who followed her professional career as I was learning to play in the 1960s.  I'm guessing there are many other women (and men) athletes who would find such a story very interesting.

As I drove home last night, it occurred to me  that someone should capture the oral history of women's golf while Ms. Bell and some of her contemporaries are still able to recount it.

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