|With a strong tug, Judy Bell rings the bell in her honor Tuesday. (John Mummert/USGA)
Colorado Springs, Colo. - When Judy Bell enters, the timbre of the room inevitably changes. The din of conversations spindles into excited jitters as all present try to sneak a word in with former USGA President Bell. With a charismatic smile and one-of-a-kind humor, she devotes her time to all, whether a long-time friend or a new acquaintance.
Bell, whose humility often deters her from the public eye, was the center of attention among beloved friends at a small ceremony at the Spencer Penrose House on Tuesday. To honor the adopted child of Colorado Springs and beloved mentor to hundreds, the El Pomar Foundation constructed a pavilion in Bell’s honor. The architecture is simple but appropriate. The structure fittingly lacks walls as Bell’s reach has stretched beyond any border. They honored Bell with, appropriately, a bell.
"This is a wonderful honor," said Bell. "I’ve fallen in love with this bell."
The Bell Pavilion, affectionately nicknamed "the Taj" by Bell, serves a dual purpose. Not only does the structure commemorate the contributions of the long time Trustee to the El Pomar Foundation, but it also serves as the display for a large bell recently removed from the former residence of Spencer Penrose. The bell, from the Buckeye Bell Foundry in Cincinnati, Ohio, was cast in 1891 and purchased by Penrose, a businessman in mining who was behind the construction of the Broadmoor and the establishment of the El Pomar Foundation.
While storm clouds receded and her audience anxiously awaited, Bell pulled three inaugural tugs on the clapper, a look of joy spreading across her face as she released a metallic echo throughout the crowd. "The fact is, a bell is perfect," said USGA Executive Director David Fay. "You’ve always been clear, and you’ve always been loud.
"Truly this is a very special person, a very special award and I am truly delighted to be a part of it."
Bell will never admit that she is a golf legend although the list of accomplishments is longer than the road to her hometown of Wichita. In 1952, at the age of 15, she reigned as Kansas State Women’s Amateur Champion, winning the title again in 1953 and 1954. Her first Broadmoor Invitational appearance was at 11 and she won that competition in 1957, 1958 and 1960. She has competed in 38 USGA championships and was a member of the Curtis Cup Team in 1960 and 1962. By 1964, she had set the then U.S. Women’s Open 18-hole scoring record, shooting a 67. She was instrumental in bringing the U.S. Women’s Open to the Broadmoor in 1995 and soon took on the role of the first and only female USGA president from 1996 to 1997. She has been inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and Kansas Golf Hall of Fame among other nods.
Never content to settle on past accomplishments, Bell reached deeper into the Colorado Springs community. Since 1996, she has served as a Trustee to the El Pomar Foundation, one of the largest and oldest foundations in the Rocky Mountain West. Through her inspiration, the USGA launched the Grants Initiative and Fellowship Program that has awarded more than $62 million since 1997 to nonprofit golf programs nationwide. These programs serve economically-disadvantaged and minority children, girls and individuals with disabilities.
Bell’s impact is enduring in golf, in Colorado Springs, and beyond.
"Judy Bell is certainly deserving of this," said William Hybl, Chairman and CEO of El Pomar Foundation. "She has really moved forward in trying to make a difference."
Bell’s bell will certainly continue to ring clear as her vision continues.
Erica Goodman is a USGA Fellow whose work has previously appeared on usga.org. E-mail her at email@example.com.