“I played my first tournament when I was 10,” she said. “The good news is that I won the girls’ division. The bad news is that I was the only girl.”
Having never played 18 holes, Bell shot 113 in the qualifier, made the third-flight consolation final and won it with a pressure-packed fairway-wood shot to a lake-fronted green. Her victory won her six green after-dinner cordial glasses. At the time, she didn’t know what they were, but she treasures that prize to this day.
From that modest start, Bell developed into one of the nation’s top amateur players. Her relationship with the USGA started in 1952 when the Kansan took a train to California to compete in the U.S. Girls’ Junior. She lost to Mickey Wright in the semifinals in what turned out to be her best finish in an USGA event. “It’s been all downhill ever since,” she quipped.
Bell won the Wichita city title at 14 and became the Kansas state women’s amateur champion a year later. As a collegiate player, she took time off to dedicate herself to the premier events and blistered the amateur circuit.
“My goals back then were very simple-winning the Broadmoor and making the Curtis Cup team.”
Bell capped her sparkling amateur career by achieving both of those honors. She won the Broadmoor three times and competed on the U.S. team in 1960 and 1962. “There is nothing that can compare with playing for your country,” said Bell, who later captained the Curtis Cup team in 1986 and 1988.
As a player, she competed in 38 USGA championships and in 1964 she fired a then-record 67 in the U.S. Women’s Open, a mark that stood for 14 years.
Just as important as her accomplishments in the game is Bell’s lifetime record of service to the golf industry. Bell has been a USGA volunteer for 33 years.
The Colorado Springs resident first became involved with the USGA in 1961 when she was a member of the Junior Championship Committee. Bell has been a USGA rules official since the 1970s and has worked both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open. She served on the Women’s Committee for 16 years and in 1987 became the first female member of the Executive Committee.