Each year the United States Open Championship, commonly known as the U.S. Open, is one of the most anticipated and exciting weeks in golf. The United States Golf Association’s (USGA) most prestigious trophy is presented to the low scorer. Also, during U.S. Open week the USGA’s highest award for distinguished sportsmanship is presented.
This year on U.S. Open Sunday, millions of viewers around the world watched and cheered on Dustin Johnson as he claimed his first major championship and possession of the iconic U.S. Open Championship trophy dating back to 1895. Earlier in the week, the golf community celebrated another exciting event. Judy Bell was honored with the Bob Jones Award for lifelong service to the game. Recipients of the Award are individuals who demonstrate spirit, personal character, and respect for the game.
Judy Bell’s accomplishments in golf as a volunteer administrator, an ambassador for the game, and a player simply cannot be matched. Here are some of her accomplishments:
Judy started her volunteer career with the USGA when she joined the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship Committee in 1961. She then served 17-years on the USGA Women’s Committee. Judy is well-known around the world for serving as president of the USGA. In 1996, she was the first woman to be elected president of the USGA. When leaders and visionaries were needed, Judy delivered.
Grassroots Program Development
One of Judy’s greatest accomplishments was a platform created for more youth and diversity programs. Judy established the “For the Good of the Game” grants program, that dedicated more than 65 million dollars to local and national initiatives devoted to improving communities through golf. She also championed the LPGA-USGA Girls’ Golf Program and created the USGA Foundation’s leadership and fellowship program.
Support of State and Regional Amateur Golf Associations
Judy has been especially supportive of state and regional golf associations (SRGA’s). These organizations serve as the USGA’s local delivery system and are the mainstay of the USGA’s ability to administer the game. Judy assisted in facilitating the allocation and distribution of USGA-funded grants and goods to SRGAs. Her ongoing recognition of SRGAs helped raised the bar and elevate local programs and service delivery.
Inspirational Leader and Mentor
Clearly, Judy Bell made exceptional contributions to the game. Her passion for the game has facilitated and pioneered its growth. Her love and respect for the game has resulted in a tremendous positive impact. I’ve learned a lot from Judy and I am grateful for the opportunity to get to work with her.
From 1999 to 2013, I was employed by the USGA as a regional affairs director. I didn’t work across the desk from Judy Bell, but I helped facilitate and carry out the programs and initiatives that she introduced. In committee meetings and in individual visits with Judy I observed her passion for the game first-hand. A few memories include:
Driving Miss Bell
My staff assignment at the 2002 Curtis Cup Match played at Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was to transport the “cup” and to keep it safe. The cup is a silver bowl of Paul Revere design with the inscription “To stimulate friendly rivalry among the women golfers of many lands.”
I was also assigned to drive Judy Bell around the course while the Match was underway. Both of these very important assignments made for plenty of fanfare. Anytime I had the cup in my hands, including transporting it to and from social functions and strategic locations around the Club, people came up and wanted to see it, ask questions, or get a picture. The same held true when I was on assignment with Judy Bell. Absolutely everyone wants to say hello to Judy Bell, shake her hand, snap a picture or get an autograph. She’s a rock star in golf! It was a fun and inspirational week. I especially enjoyed the informal conversations with Judy as we leap frogged and maneuvered around the course watching the Match. The United States won the Match defeating Great Britain and Ireland 11 and 7.
Growing Girls’ Golf
Dear to Judy’s heart is the LPGA-USGA Girls’ Golf program that specializes in providing girl-friendly environments to learn the game. Although the program is centered around golf, it also works on improving life skills specific to young girls, including self-esteem, leadership, confidence and perseverance. Judy has supported the program since its inception more than 25-years ago. She inspired enthusiasm for the program, resulting in more sites, more girls, more volunteers, and more instructors. As a USGA regional director assigned to the northeast region, I made it a priority to act on Judy Bell’s charge. I helped achieve Judy’s desired results by recruiting volunteers and state and regional golf associations to start program sites of their own or support existing sites in their areas. Today, thanks to Judy’s efforts, there are more than 300 program sites that are helping to prepare girls for a lifetime of enjoyment of the game. It’s incredible to see how far this program has come.
Everyone agrees Judy Bell is an inspirational leader, mentor, and friend. Her enthusiasm for the game is contagious. Her smile is priceless.
Ann Guiberson is a golf administrator with more than 20-years of experience working with state and regional amateur golf associations and the United States Golf Association (USGA). She served as a USGA Regional Affairs Director for 14-years and USGA Championship Director for 9-years.
Ann attended the University of Nebraska on a golf scholarship. She has a Masters Degree in Athletic Administration.
Feature photo of Judy Bell – Courtesy USGA. All Rights Reserved