Celebrity Golf Tournaments

The years 1976 to 1979 O’Neal saw all twelve grades come to fruition, a brick and mortar building for education, physical education and swimming, and national accreditation for the first time. It was the glory years and if there was a downside, the benefits and celebrations surpassed it all.

Inspired by a sports celebrity tournament in Indiana that was attended by O’Neal parents Buck and Diana Adams, the idea was born for a celebrity golf tournament to benefit Wallace O’Neal Day School. Buck, the golf pro at Country Club of North Carolina (CCNC) and his wife Diana partnered with O’Neal parents and owners of Pine Needles Golf and Country Club, Peggy Kirk Bell, also a golf pro and husband Warren “Bullet” Bell to co-chair the Tarheel Sports Celebrity Golf Tournament from 1976 through 1978. The tournament was held a fourth year under the organization of O’Neal parents – the Slades, Bonsals and Ellis.  

Malcom McLean, who had purchased Pinehurst Resort in 1975, was a personal friend of the Adams and was the underwriter for the dinners and also flew in celebrities on his private plane. Buck Adams had many connections with UNC-Chapel Hill and across the state. From his connections, the network grew to have a strong sports celebrity attendance. They included college basketball coaches such as Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano to MLB Hall of Fame members, to NFL players and coaches – namely Alabama’s Bear Bryant.

To learn of the celebrities who played, please read the articles in the photo gallery.

Diana recalls, “We didn’t raise a lot of money, but we did put Wallace O’Neal Day School on the map.”

The tournaments were a weekend of fun with a Friday night cocktail party, and Saturday’s golf tournament followed by a gala dinner. Newspaper articles cite the tournament having been played at CCNC, Pinehurst #2, Pinehurst #4 and Pinehurst #6.

Notable Highlights

The Adams were close friends with the president of Amana – so freezers and other appliances were often the prizes.

The Robbins family were friends with William Oliver Swofford of North Wilkesboro whose professional name was Oliver. In 1969, Oliver’s song “Jean” was a #2 hit on the US pop charts. One of the tournaments were fortunate to have Oliver entertain at the cocktail party.

The newspapers went crazy one year with the announcement that Perry Como would be playing in the 1977 tournament, only to find that he couldn’t make it.

Future Plans

Plans are being made to host an event to resemble the celebrity golf tournaments of the late 1970’s in the spring of 2022 as part of O’Neal’s 50-year celebration. If you are interested in learning more, or if you know of a celebrity who would be interested in playing, let us know!

Falcons Fly to 50

O’Neal is excited to share its history with readers as it quickly nears its 50th year in educating and cultivating youth in becoming successful, effective contributors to communities large and small. The official celebration starts school year 2021/2022. This weekly blog will focus on different aspects of the School as it grew through the years. With every entry, there is just as much more information to gather than what is already written. Readers who have been a part of the O’Neal community are encouraged to reach out and share their O’Neal memories. It is with great hope that the efforts of many in contributing information and photography can be published into a book for reflection and reference as the School continues to prosper for the next 50 years.

Please send your memoirs and photos to:
The O’Neal School
c/o Kathy Taylor, Director of Communications
P.O. Box 290
Southern Pines, NC 28388
Email: ktaylor@onealschool.org

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