Change of Rank Stories by Your Friends

Nancy Sims  Tim Michaels  Neil Brackley  John Coleman Carolyn Coleman

Linda McDade  John Harbour  Linda Carter  Dennis Barry  Michael Popkin

Marcel Calamia  Jenny Hulsey  Mike Smithfield  Pat Hunt

These are in no particular order, just the order in which they were received.

Nancy Sims of Springfield Alabama on reaching Silver Life Master - After playing party bridge for several years, without a very successful winning record, based on the fact that I tend to be terribly aggressive - preferring going down one (or more) as opposed to missing a slam(horrors!), I was introduced to duplicate bridge. I played in a few non-sanctioned games before taking the plunge and visiting the local club. Since my family was large (six children) and the local club was not nearby, playing there was somewhat of a challenge and opportunities were rare. I found it a bit intimidating, as well, although the majority of people were warm and friendly.

The first out of town tournament I attended was the Atlanta Labor Day regional in 1999. My partner and I stayed at the hotel where the tournament
was played and it was a great retreat. We played in events for those with less than 20 master points. I still remember what an impression that tournament made. We met some beautiful people and had a wonderful time. Our last day we played in the first session of a two-session event and planned to leave after that round, having already checked out. We ended up in second place and inquired as to whether we might be close enough to win, should we decide to stay and play in the evening session. Since we were given the affirmative, we unloaded our luggage and checked back in but we had to share a king bed because there were no doubles available. This was a trophy event but we both agreed we didn't even want one of the tacky things, but winning would be nice. Of note, we did win and carried those trophies around like peacocks!

Of six children, only one showed interest in learning bridge, a son. He developed into my favorite partner but, again, opportunities for us to play together were rare. He is in the military and never lived close. We started a tradition of attending the Gatlinburg TN April regional tourney. Dad, who loves to trout fish but has no interest whatsoever in cards, accompanies us. We stay in a condo and Dad fishes in the mornings, then comes in and cooks our dinner. I was in the position of having over 500 master points but needed 9.5 gold, which I thought I would NEVER get and failed to do so many times. Finally, in 2011, with my son as my partner, in a team game with two gentlemen we found through the partnership table, on the last day we were to be there, we placed and I became life master and bronze at the same time.

Playing online has afforded further opportunity to play with my son on occasion, who now lives in Alaska and I in Alabama. This also provides the opportunity to amass more points, since my local club is still some distance away. Presently, I play in two games per week at the local level and several online tournaments weekly. This month I reached 1000 points (something I thought surely would never happen), and became silver life master. I am excited to share that in this same month my son, Brian Sims, became life master. While home on a visit we played in a sectional Tournament in Montgomery Al and he got the silver points he needed to fulfill that

This has been no short journey for me but I look forward to the next step. My partner who played with me in that very first Atlanta regional became SLM years ago but she was free to travel considerably more than I. I'm so glad I didn't let discouragement prevent me from keeping on!

Tim Michaels of Knoxville Tennessee on reaching NABC Master - I just resumed playing after a three year hiatus since graduating from undergrad. I am currently a grad student at Vanderbilt, and I just started dabbling in club play again while the summer permits. One thing the ACBL could do that would be helpful would be to keep a searchable database of active younger players. I obviously have trouble finding people to play with my own age (I am 24), and finding such partners can make the game more fun. This would be particularly helpful if I were to travel somewhere. 

Neil Brackley of Memphis Tennessee on reaching Bronze Life Master - The answer as to how I've been able to I reached Bronze Life Master status is simple.   A good partner who is willing to let me know when I make a WAB (wild ass bid.)   Over the years, Lora Adkins has been my partner for around 70-80 percent of my colored points.  She is willing to let me know when I make a mistake and willing to listen, research, and adjust when we disagree.  She has also been willing to forgive my many miscues.  I believe that give and take is what is necessary to build a good bridge partnership. 
The main reason I play bridge is to have fun!  I enjoy the game because it gives me a chance to expand my mind.  I will never be a player who can remember every card in every hand during a 24+ session.  I still can strive to continue to improve my game by adding and understanding more conventions and improving my play of the hand.  This constant learning aspect of bridge adds to the enjoyment.

John Coleman of Lafayette Louisiana on reaching Regional Master - I am now in my early 80's, and am a retired lawyer, having practiced with a law firm in nearby Franklin for some 55 years. Fifteen years ago, in preparation for retirement, my wife and I moved to Lafayette, where, initially, I commuted to my office, a daily 100 mile round trip. For some time now I have been fully retired, and rarely have contact with my law office.

Four years ago I read a notice in the local newspaper that the Acadian Duplicate Bridge Club was offering free bridge lessons, and I responded. Except for some rather casual bridge playing while in under graduate school, I've had no bridge-playing experience. "Easybridge" was taught, and I became absolutely hooked, and have been playing rather regularly since. I've also been able to take advantage of some excellent bridge lessons from our own Zerky Jones, who is a strong proponent of Audrey Grant, and who does a great job in urging beginners onward.

Carolyn Coleman of Little Rock on reaching Junior Master - I am enjoying my bridge experience at the Curtis Finch Bridge House, and hopefully, learning each time I play.   Many people have been so kind that I hesitate to name any body, for fear I will overlook someone.  

Linda McDade of South Fulton, Tennessee on reaching Bronze Life Master - I am excited to have attained my Life Master and at the same time, my Bronze designation. I joined the ACBL in 2000 and went to my first tournament in 2006. I won a fraction of a gold point at the Metropolis IL tournament in 2008. I was sure I would never accumulate 25 gold points! 
In 2014 I went to 3 tournaments, Palmetto, FL, Tunica, and Birmingham and won about 12 so begin to think I might make it! I went to Palmetto in 2015 needing 4.56 and won 4.42. Needing only .14, I was able to get that in Nashville.

I also went over 500, including 100 points that I have won online. I have played with over 20 different partners, including team games. It's been fun, a great way to meet new people when I began to spend the winters in Florida. It was a special time to be able to play for several years with my mother before she passed away.

John Harbour of Union City, Tennessee on reaching NABC Master - How I achieved this milestone:  Playing 2-3 bridge sessions locally on a regular basis; became proficient using ACBLscore for documenting 2-3 sessions weekly since March 2013 as manager at sessions my wife directs. 
Inspiring others:  Helping our local clubs bringing food & soft drinks; playing with a wide variety of partners without regard to their ability to accrue master points; maintaining good rapport with ALL partners (as well as opponents) regardless of mistakes bidding or playing duplicate bridge; encouraging ACBL Tournament participation by local players by recognizing their successes when they earn extra master points; registering our local games in STaC Game opportunities and enlisting/announcing NAP Games when requested by our local members.

Linda Carter on reaching Junior Master - Thank you very much for taking the time to extend your congratulations.  Yes, this is a milestone for me.  I had not played bridge before so I truly am a Beginner.  I have nothing but kind words and appreciation to both our instructor and director at our Unit.  They are an inspiration and always encouraging.  For this, I am most grateful. 
Mona Martin on reaching Junior Master - I worked as a college basketball coach for the past thirty-eight years. When I retired I knew I would have the opportunity to spend more time with my Mother.  She is an avid bridge player and actually will soon be a Life Master.  Even though I am just starting, I have had so much fun playing with different people, and learning the game. Everyone has been so nice and helpful to me and the directors are awesome!  I have even started playing with my Mother, and we plan to attend several tournaments so she can get the gold points she needs.  I spend several nights weekly with her, and am enjoying every minute. Thanks to everyone who has welcomed me at District 10.  They have made this a fantastic learning experience and one I will treasure forever.

Dennis Barry of Little Rock on reaching Junior Master - My quest began in 2004 when I retired. I asked my wife what she would suggest I do now that I had time. She told me to call my company and ask if they would give me my job back. They wouldn’t and I didn’t call anyway, so it was left to me to find my way. Over the next few years I went through a number of phases in search of the perfect outlet for my energies. From spelunking to macramé to used car sales to rhythmic gymnastics, nothing quite brought the satisfaction I wanted and needed.
And then one day, in 2009, I hit upon Bobby Wolfe’s Bridge column in the local newspaper. Now that looked like something that might fill the bill. I went back through many years of Bobby’s column, gleaning whatever I could. I also bought several “How To” bridge books and studied them thoroughly. The game was a challenge, both intellectually and physically, but eventually I began to play, both in a club and on line. I didn’t keep records, but I’d guess that I’ve basically worked at my bridge craft five days a week, eight hours a day, for the last five years. Of course, there was a lengthy time out for health reasons, a situation brought about by a very unlikely--in fact almost cosmic-- confluence of a six pack of Guinness and a woodpecker. But aside from that period, I’ve been at it steadily. More than one person told me I was whistling in the wind, that I would never be able to get it done, but those naysayers just increased my resolve.
Then, finally, six years into my quest I stood on the precipice, just fractions away from my goal. And on one hot summer day in July, 2015, in a room full of my fellow bridge enthusiasts, I did it. With my wife as partner, still wondering why I’d never heard back from the company from which I’d retired eleven years earlier, I made it. I got over the FIVE-POINT HUMP to become a Junior Master. What a feeling!! As if Master wasn’t enough, I hadn’t been Junior anything since Johnson was President. (Lyndon, not Andrew.) Oh, to feel the sweet numbness of youth once again. Nirvana, indeed.
At my current pace, I can expect to make the next level, which I believe is 20 points, sometime in the year 2030. I’ll be 85, or dead. Damn, that’s really pretty depressing. Is there any chance that the ACBL will be introducing a new designation, perhaps for ten or 15 points? Maybe you could call it Senior Junior Master, Or Junior Senior Master, or—well, smarter folks than me can figure it out.
I’m proud to have joined this exclusive club. And I promise to bring honor to the title and the ACBL in every way possible for as long as I hold the designation, which may well be forever. I am excited!

Michael Popkin of Hot Springs Village on reaching NABC Master - My Mentor and friend Louallen Thomasson has been my inspiration and reason for reaching NABC Master Status.
Ms. Thomasson, an Emerald Life Master, is The story. LT (my endearment for her) took me under her wing and in little more than a year I went from having less than 100-MP’s to having more than 300-MP’s. This achievement is crowned off with having earned over 29 Gold MP’s in this time frame with over 5-Gold MP’s and 3-Red MP’s earned in New Orleans NABC in the open in three days. This event by-the-way, is another story within itself. It is a story of a novice player going to a national event to help a master become an Emerald Life Master. It is a story of Master who loves this game so very much, with unconditional love, she gave me the tools I needed; two people thinking as one and dancing together in perfect harmony. It was not about multitudes of conventions, but instead, a language of its own. A beautiful symphony of Iambic Pentameter to guide my way. Thank you, LT.

Marcel Calamia on reaching Junior Master - I started to play bridge to socialize and meet people. I really did not expect to amount to anything.  But lately I have been trying to play much better. I really do not know all the calls. I just try to play the hand and help my partner out. I don't pay much attention to people who try to tell me what I did wrong, if I did this game would not be fun. I listen to comments but not when I am playing. I lost my wife almost three years ago so now I play Golf, Dance a lot, and play bridge and do them for fun.

Jenny Hulsey of Collierville, Tennessee on reaching Gold Life Master - I have made a milestone that may be my last.  I started bridge late in life so this is great for me. I have had so many wonderful partners over the years.  I have been fortunate to play from California to New York and Alaska to Florida.  My husband had a traveling job so I went with him sometime and played bridge.  Years ago ACBL had a "phone book" directory for all the country so I could look up the city we were in, call a director for a partner and play bridge everywhere.  I met so many wonderful people.  
I thought I would be able to play bridge ’til my dying day (and maybe I can) but I had a little setback.  A few years ago I had a stroke which I was so fortunate to get attention quickly so I have minor damage. Of course it effected everything including my bridge.  The Doctor told me to go back to the bridge table and play often.  He could not have given me better advice.  I was so grateful.  I realize sometimes the handicap but continue to strive to keep going. 
Years ago, when we moved to Memphis I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  M.A. Lightman Bridge Club is the club everyone should experience.  The people are so nice and friendly.  All levels of bridge is played there so I could fit right in. After I had the stroke my children thought we should move closer to them which is in Florida. I never wanted to leave Memphis but we have to do what is best.  We moved to this wonderful town of St Augustine which is where my husband and I spent our honeymoon 60 years ago.  

I feel we have come full circle so this is the place to end it. Now everyone should have the privilege to come to the St Augustine Bridge Club.  The people come from all over the country and still come and go all the time.  The people are friendly and wonderful. I don't know how much longer the Lord will let me continue but I plan to keep going as long as possible. Thanks to all my bridge partners and friends for a great run.

Mike Smithfield of Nashville, Tennessee on reaching Life Master – I joined the ACBL in 2003 at age 31 with the encouragement of my dad, who had been playing duplicate for a few years.  We played together as regular partners for about 7 years until he achieved life master.  My regular partner since then is John Ford, who I am very thankful for helping me earn a lot of the points I needed. We are all members of the Vanderbilt Bridge Club in Nashville.

I would only go to local tournaments in Nashville and the Gatlinburg regional most years as well club games just once a week, so it took quite a while to get the points needed for life master.  I hit the 300 overall point and my 50 point silver milestones last year.  I had the red point requirement for a few years now.

Going into 2015, I needed a little over 13 gold points (out of 25) to achieve life master, so I didn't expect to reach this milestone this year.  But I made a goal to attend four days of the Nashville regional in July, and with my new partner David Cochener (a friend of my parents), we had a lot of success.  I earned 11.37 gold points at this tourney playing mostly open pair games, reducing my points needed to under 2.

Because I was so close now, my parents invited me to go with them to the Tunica regional in September.  I had never attended that tournament before, and it was a lot of fun.  Quite a few of my club players from Nashville were in attendance as well.  While we just barely were knocked out on Thursday, Friday was a big success.  My dad and I played in a two-session open pairs game, and we finished 1st in B, 2nd in A in the first session, which was enough gold to earn life master status.  We ended up finishing 1st in B overall for some additional gold after the second session.

I was quite happy that my dad, David Smithfield, could be the one to get me to this milestone since he was the one that encouraged me to join ACBL in the first place.  I have a teenage daughter just starting out in bridge through her school, and I hope I can help her like my dad helped me.

Pat Hunt of Hot Springs Village, Arkansas on reaching Club Master - I had a stroke nearly 2 years ago and could not play golf anymore and needed something to occupy my days. I had taken EasyBridge lessons 6 years earlier and thought it would fill my time. I had two great teachers in Andy Cosby and Tony Hoffman. I am now 80 years old and appreciate all that bridge has done for me.