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Bell & Verplank get GWAA awards

Former USGA President Judy Bell and 2001 Ryder Cup team member Scott Verplankhave been honored with a pair of prestigious awards given by the Golf Writers Association of America.

The 64-year-old Bell, who has worked tirelessly for the USGA since 1961, won the William D. Richardson Award, given annually to recognize an individual who has consistently made an outstanding contribution to golf. Verplank, 37, won the Ben Hogan Award, given annually to an individual who has continued to be active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness.

They will be honored at the GWAA's Annual Awards Dinner on April 10 in Augusta, Ga.

Verplank, who won the 1985 Western Open as an amateur, has battled diabetes his entire career and endured surgeries on both arms. The 1985 U.S. Amateur champ and 1986 NCAA champ from Oklahoma State battled back from losing his PGA TOUR playing privileges to win four times since 1988. He won the 2001 Bell Canadian Open just a few weeks after Curtis Strange made him one of his two captain's choices for the Ryder Cup.

Verplank had eight top-10s in 2001 and earned more than $2.7 million. He and fellow TOUR players Brian Watts and Andrew Magee founded the Magee-Verplank-Watts Health Clinic, a free clinic for all students and families at their former junior high -- Vivian Fields Junior High in Farmer's Branch, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.

Bell, a two-time Curtis Cup team member in the early 1960s, was named to her first USGA committee in 1961. She served as chairman of the Women's Committee from 1981-1984 and, in 1987, was the first woman named to the prestigious Executive Committee. She served as the first female USGA president in 1996 and 1997.

Bell, who played in her first USGA championship in 1950, was instrumental in founding the USGA Foundation, a 10-year, $50-million program to increase accessibility to the sport. She has also served on the boards of the Western Golf Association, Women's Trans National and Broadmoor Invitational. She currently oversees the USGA Foundation grants program..

Former Ben Hogan Award winners include José Maria Olazábal, Casey Martin, Paul Azinger, Robert Allenby, Lee Trevino, John Mahaffey, Jim Nelford, Ken Venturi, Terri-Jo Meyers, Steve Jones and Pat Browne.

Past recipients of the William D. Richardson Award include Nancy Lopez, Judy Rankin, Babe Zaharias, Ely Callaway, Ben Hogan, Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, Patty Berg, Gene Sarazen, Arnold Palmer, Ben Crenshaw, Harvey Penick, Peggy Kirk Bell, Frank Hannigan, Kathy Whitworth and Lee Trevino.

In addition to Bell and Verplank, the 890-member GWAA will also honor its players of year -- Tiger Woods, Annika Sörenstam and Allen Doyle -- at the dinner. The professional organization takes an active role in protecting the interests of all golf journalists, works closely with all of golf's major governing bodies and the World Golf Hall of Fame and facilitates a scholarship/internship program that is currently helping 27 students at 17 major U.S. universities.

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