This journey began with our 50th wedding anniversary cruise in January 2016. Long time social bridge enthusiasts, the extended cruise got us hooked on duplicate, with lots of lesson time and sanctioned games on sea days. It was so enjoyable, we joined ACBL and banked 15+ cruise points. We were hooked.

Once back home we played regularly at Madeira Beach and later frequenting the St. Petersburg and Clearwater clubs in pursuit of colored points. Lots of hours online at the BBO site allowed us to review hands and decipher best play and bidding—a great learning tool. Barbara Seagram’s “Pocket Guide” to bridge conventions was my go-to reference and Frank Stewart’s daily newspaper column reinforced many of the basics.

The key to this journey is my wife and bridge partner, Zulie—the Ying to my Yang. In addition to learning “bridge basics” together, she taught me to be more patient and calmer even when circumstances challenged. After all, it is just a game, isn’t it? Zulie became a Life Master in August 2018, a beneficiary of the old standard. And while it was tough being excluded from the 499/NLM events, it forced us to further develop our bridge brains. As good partners do, she enthusiastically packed her bags for regionals, to help get me to the finish line.

The value of having a great partner aside, excellent teachers [Roger Pryor/ Madeira Beach] and Holland America Line directors/instructors Armand Grassi and Michael Innis, as well as tips and pointers from experienced players, collectively helped bring this together. Charlie Gill at the St. Petersburg club was always encouraging.

I am very thankful to the many bridge club friends and team partners [especially Roger and Diane Pryor] who helped us along the way. Meeting Barbara Seagram this year was a special plus. We hope to enjoy many more years of bridge going forward. While the game is always fulfilling, the friendships are unbeatable.

For others on this journey, play safe, stay positive and good luck. I’ve considered this an educational process and the Life Master milestone the diploma.

Karl Olander