By Amanda Rogers
A low hum of conversation buzzes around the room with frequent bursts of laughter. Nine tables of card players pass around boards filled with playing cards, each silently sorting and laying down their picks. Although they talk and laugh, their eyes miss nothing, watching as their partners across the table and their opponents play their hands.
Everyone in the room is friendly, but there’s still competition – and that competition just got a little bit more advanced.
Four of the players in Mansfield’s Tuesday Sanctioned Duplicate Bridge just earned the rank of Life Master, combining for more than two centuries of bridge experience.
“It’s been something that we’ve been working at for 50 years,” said Pam Bland, 73, of Arlington, who has been playing for 55 years along with her husband, Rod, 74. “It’s a great achievement and relief. I can tell my friends and it means nothing to them.”
Harriet Motter, 87, of Mansfield wasn’t sure she would make it.
“At my age, it was on my bucket list,” said the longtime piano teacher. “With the pandemic, I was pretty sure I would die or reach 100 before I got it.”
To become a Life Master, a duplicate bridge player has to accumulate a certain number of points in the American Contract Bridge League. Points come in black, red, silver and gold. These players had to amass 300 total points (all four have a lot more) and at least 25 gold points. The four players were all grandfathered in because they joined before 2010, when the requirement went up to 500 total points.
Players earn points at local, regional and national tournaments. The tougher the competition is the higher the level of point. Gold is the highest, and the hardest to get.
But that’s just what Pam and Rod Bland, Harriet Motter and Sharon Stewart, 78, of Mansfield did in May at the Fort Western Regional tournament, rounding up their final gold points.
“When Harriet got it the first day, I was so excited,” said Rod Bland. “Then the next day Sharon got it.”
The Blands had to come back the third day to get their final ¼ gold point, but they did it.
“Pam has always had ¼ point more than I have,” Rod Bland said. “I wanted to catch her. When we realized we could get our Life Master, that went away.”
While they are competitive, the group that gathers every Tuesday at the Mansfield Activities Center is also supportive.
“People in the game in this room are special,” said Rod Bland. “Everybody wants to help.”
Allan Grenadier of Arlington takes credit for helping the four earn their new rank, by helping them earn points by beating him every week.
“Behind every Life Master there are those of us who sacrifice, the unsung heroes,” he joked.
Lauren Brown of Mansfield started the Mansfield Tuesday game 10 years ago and serves as the director. She earned Gold Life Master in 2021, an even higher ranking, and has been teaching duplicate bridge for 15 years.
“I have people that are novices,” she said. “Usually there’s about 30 people and a quarter of them are Life Masters. That’s what I love about this game. People are so friendly. I’m thinking of starting a beginners group in the fall.”
The Mansfield Sanctioned Duplicate Bridge game meets at 12:30 p.m. every Tuesday at the MAC. Cost is $5 per person.
For more information, contact Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mansfield, Texas, is a booming city, nestled between Fort Worth and Dallas, but with a personality all its own. The city’s 76,247 citizens enjoy an award-winning school district, vibrant economy, historic downtown, prize-winning park system and community focus spread across 37 square miles. The Mansfield Record is dedicated to reporting city and school news, community happenings, police and fire news, business, food and restaurants, parks and recreation, library, historical archives and special events. The city’s only online newspaper launched in September 2020 and will offer introductory advertising rates for the first three months at three different rates.