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Personnel File - September 2008: Golf

Kelly Miller
President, Pine needles Lodge & Golf Club
Southern Pines

He married into one of the state’s great golf families, and it’s natural to assume that Kelly Miller married into money. While becoming the son-in-law of Peggy Kirk Bell and Warren “Bullet” Bell in 1982 had its perks, deep pockets weren’t among them. “The golf business then, for a resort course like ours, wasn’t at all easy,” says Miller, who met the former Peggy Ann Bell while both were on golf scholarships at the University of Alabama. He majored in finance. “In the long haul, the business degree has helped, but it took a long time to get to that. Bullet was very much a realist, and when he heard he had cancer and wasn’t going to live much longer, he became a great teacher. And just a few weeks before he died [in May 1984], he made the last payment on Pine Needles, which was probably how we survived.” Miller and his wife worked every job imaginable. “I’d come in early, and Peggy Ann would work the 3-to-11s. We did that for years, learning the people side and the business side with the rest of the family.”

The Bells had bought the club in 1953. His mother-in-law’s reputation as a founding member of the LPGA and famed instructor earned Pine Needles a U.S. Women’s Open in 1996. Expectations were exceeded, so much so that the club was awarded a second Open just five years later. A third was staged last June, and it’s natural to assume that a fourth date isn’t too far off. “The 1996 Open really helped get us on the map. It’s credibility you simply can’t buy. It had a dramatic effect, and financially it enabled us to get some things done that were needed, such as making improvements to the golf course.”

As president of Pine Needles and its sister property, Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club, Miller, 49, only plays in spurts. But he manages to play well enough to be champion two years ago at the revered Pine Valley (in New Jersey) and Seminole (in Florida) clubs. “Sometimes things just work out.”