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Updated: 02/08/2018 08:30:03AM

Heartland Games get underway with bridge

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Marg Strong and Mary Ann Wright of Sun 'N Lake took time to strategize before play began.


Marilyn Vachon, 94, of Sun 'N Lake, studied her hand carefully.


Verna Gibson and Dee Madewell, of Wauchula, compared hands and discussed strategy before the tournament started.


Gold medal winners, from left; Mike Sharkey, George Vermette, Judy Mackowiak, Beverly Phillips, Mary Ann Wright, Shirley Whidden, Martha Steineke and Marilyn Vachon.


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The Heartland Games For Active Adults got underway on Friday with bridge players spending an enjoyable day at Tanglewood. Tournament director Pat Reich was happy with the fact that the day ran smoothly and noted that all of the players were “so sweet.” Players came from Wauchula, Lake Placid, Avon Park and Sebring, many for the third year in a row.

Marilyn Vachon, 94, of Sun ‘N Lake, the oldest player at the event, admits that she has had a little practice having played the game for more than 80 years. She grew up playing with her parents and neighbors and enjoyed playing bridge during her 45 working years. Now that she is retired, Vachon plays at least twice a week while in Florida and usually once weekly when at her cottage in Indiana.

Newcomer Margaret Gleave of Lake Placid wasn’t too happy with the cards she was dealt in the morning but was delighted to meet so many pleasant people. Another first time participant in the tournament was Susan Roberts from Francis One MHP in Sebring. She’ll work on getting some of her neighbors to participate next year.

Susie Buelow, a native of Avon Park and a full time resident in the City of Charm has heard that some folks think the Heartland Games are just for snowbirds while some winter residents believe that only fulltimers were welcome. The Heartland Games are open to all. Buelow also wants others to know that one doesn’t have to be a master bridge player to enjoy the tournament. They play party bridge and everyone comes out for an enjoyable day.

Mike Sharkey, one of only two men participating says the day was a win/win for him. He met new people and had a chance to play one of his favorite games. Not only that, he earned a gold medal for his efforts.

The gold medal winners Mike Sharkey, George Vermette, Judy Mackowiak, Beverly Phillips, Mary Ann Wright, Shirley Whidden, Martha Steineke and Marilyn Vachon are all from Sebring.

Silver medalists were Susie Buelow of Avon Park, Margaret Gleave from Lake Placid and Marg Strong and Mary Gillis, both from Sebring.

Verna Gibson and Dee Madewell of Wauchula and Sebring’s Susan Roberts took home bronze medals.

Pat Reich agreed to coordinate the next Heartland Games Bridge Tournament which has already been booked for February 21, 2019.