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History - A Growth Story
History - A Growth Story

History of The Villages Duplicate Bridge Club

Revision March 4, 2018

Compiled by Tom Bush with input from Betty Johnson, Pat Ford, Bonnie Overson, Jon Williams, Paul Matheson, Millie Vibbard, Nancy Deal and Pat Poitinger along with past Board Minutes and ACBL records

The Villages Duplicate Bridge Club started in January 1986 as the Orange Blossom Gardens Duplicate Bridge Club.  They played once per week at the Paradise Recreation Center except during the summer of that first year when the snow birds were gone and attendance was too small to warrant a game.  Starting in the 2nd year, they played year around.  Harold Schwartz, the founding father of The Villages, had a sister Ethyl Shaw who was an active player at the time.  In fact, Ethyl served as Club Secretary during those early years.  Many of our current players including Bonnie Overson played with Ethyl and remember her as a friendly and outgoing lady.  The cost to play was 25₵.

On January 1, 1987 we officially became an ACBL sanctioned club.  Our ACBL Sanction number is #217489 and we are in District 9, Unit #128.  Bob Boston, a retired professor from Boudin College in Maine, was the Director and his wife Geneva Boston was the Club Manager.  The cost to play was raised to 50₵.  We started out as an Open club and had members from Ocala, Leesburg, Mt. Dora, Tavares and Eustis.  Since we were now in ACBL, we starting playing ACBL special games like Club Tournament and Charity Games.  At our first Club Tournament Game an 8-table Mitchell game was played.  That is significant because they had only been playing a Howell movement up until then because of our table count per game was too small.

In 1988 the club’s Board voted to make all games non-smoking.

In 1994 our Club consisted of two games, Monday and Friday nights.  We were still at the Paradise Recreational Center and our director was still Bob Boston.  Betty Johnson came to The Villages about that time and started substituting as a Director for Bob Boston when he wanted a night off.  Shortly thereafter, it was decided to have a third game, during the day on Thursday, and Betty directed that game.

In those days our club lacked our present level of civility and we didn’t have a little yellow “Zero Tolerance” card.  At times tempers would flare.   At one such game that Betty was directing, two guys started arguing which ended in them slugging it out.  Betty, being the Director, had to maintain order, so she broke up the fight and the game went on.  Those were our rough and tumble “cowboy” days.  Today with our Zero Tolerance Policy and the friendliness of Villagers in general, we have very pleasant and amiable games.

In 1998 Earl Vibbard, who retired from IBM, replaced Bob Boston as Head Director.  Bob Boston retired after serving 11 years as Head Director.  Pat Ford became Club Manager.

In 1999 thanks to Earl’s IBM background, we started using a computer and the ACBL Score program to calculate the results instead of doing everything by hand on a sheet of paper.  He also worked closely with BridgeScore, who became our host server, to create our first web site.  This is the first time our members could go to their home computer and pull up their game results.  We were starting to crawl out of the "Stone Age".

In 2002 two major events occurred.  The club’s name was officially changed from Orange Blossom Gardens Duplicate Bridge Club to The Villages Duplicate Bridge Club.  In addition, we requested ACBL to change our club from an Open club to an Invitational club so that players now had to be Village residents.  This was requested by The Village Management.  However, visitors could still play if they obtained guest passes.   Our ACBL sanction number did not change.

In 2004 we added several new games, two of which were being held at the new Mulberry Regional Recreation Center, making our club now a multisite club.  We were starting to grow and expand.

In 2005 because of a major renovation to the Paradise Rec Center, the games held there were moved to the new Laurel Manor Regional Recreation Center.

In 2006 Neil Timm started a club newsletter called "Bridge News".  It included not only local club news but had educational articles on various bridge conventions.

In 2007 Tom Bush became Webmaster and started customizing the existing BridgeScore web site to add content and make it more useful and informative to our members.

In 2008 Chuck Deal replaced Earl Vibbard as Head Director.  Earl had served 10 years in that capacity.

In 2009 Pat Poitinger became Editor of our club newsletter which is called "Club News".  She recruited a staff and started publishing very professional newsletters on a regular basis.

In 2010 our club had grown to seven pair games a week plus two team games a month, in four different recreational centers.  One of the seven was a limited (299er) game; another had two sections, open and 299er.

Over the next three years, the club added a fifth recreation center and more new games with emphasis on limited (399er) games.  Mike Lotti was very instrumental in getting these games started.  To further attract new players we initiated a mentor program and began an EZ Bridge newcomer game.  Jon Williams and Dean Robinson have been very active in setting up and running these and other educational programs.

In 2012 we made tremendous improvements in our scoring capabilities.  Charlie Showalter led the way to installing dealing machines and BridgeMate machines which automatically generate random hands and score the results electronically directly from the table.  The Villages helped our club in this endeavor.  This was a big improvement over using paper travelers or pickup slips.

Later on in that same year Paul Matheson replaced Chuck Deal as Head Director.  Chuck had served 4 years in that capacity.

In 2013 Tom Bush created a new web site using BridgeWebs as our new host server.  It is a state of the art program that has served our club well and was a big improvement over the host server that we had been using for the previous 14 years.  This new program enabled us to post the hands and detailed results directly to our web site which we couldn’t do before.  It also was much better and versatile for posting local information.

In 2013 our club hosted its first Sectional Tournament, thanks to the efforts of Alex Booke, and we’ve been having a Sectional every year since.  In its inaugural year, the Village's Sectional was the third largest in the state of Florida, at 328 tables.  The following year, it was second largest, with 335 tables.

In 2015 our club had grown to having 16 games during the week spread out over 6 different recreational centers scattered all around The Villages.  We have become a "state of the art" bridge club, and many players have told us they moved to The Villages because of The Villages Duplicate Bridge Club.

In 2016 Betty Johnson retired as our club Director after serving us for 21 years.  Unfortunately Pat Ford passed away after serving 18 years as Club Manager.  Alex Booke became the new Club Manager.   We now have 17 Directors and are offering 18 games per week spread out over 7 different recreational centers.

In 2018 Rick Gauthier replaced Paul Matheson as Head Director.  Paul had served for 5 distinguished years and instigated many new programs.  Our club became incorporated and is now officially called The Villages Duplicate Bridge Club, Inc.

The growth of our club has been phenomenal.  We have grown from a small community club within The Villages, when it was in its infancy, to being the 2nd largest ACBL club in North America in 2017.  Click on the Submenu buttons to the left to get a detailed summary of our growth as follows:

  • History - ACBL Ranking is a graphical look as how we have grown since 1991 in table count and in our rank in size relative to the largest club in North America.

  • (year) Top Clubs in ACBL for a listing of the largest clubs in ACBL for the year you click on.  It shows where we stand compared to other clubs for that year.



What has made our club successful is not only the obvious growth of The Villages, but the dedication of our members.  The Villages and our club in particular have attracted some very talented individuals who have been willing to chip in and contribute in all sorts of ways to make our club what it is today.  The volunteerism is outstanding.  We now have 16 Directors, including a Head Director, a Club Manager, Board Members and numerous important support task positions such as Partnership, Comptroller, Newsletter Editor, Webmaster, Information Systems, Education Coordinator, and Sectional Chairman, not to mention the countless members who volunteer to teach and lead numerous bridge classes for all sorts of instruction.  The talent and volunteerism we have in this club is unbelievable; that is really what has made our club so successful.

Although our club is relatively young, several of our members have been here and have served in some leadership position for a very long time.  Betty Johnson just retired after being our Director for 21 years.  Since our club is only 29 years old (28 as a sanctioned ACBL club), many of our members have been witness to many of the changes that have taken place.

Last updated : Jun 30, 2018 07:56 EDT