Bridge tournament draws hundreds to Harvey

Published on Friday, 26 July 2013 20:53 - Written by By Dayna Worchel dworchel@tylerpaper.com

Francis Chang, Kathy Coleman and Jean Helmers have a relationship that goes beyond their love of bridge.

The three keep in touch outside of bridge tournaments and consider themselves to be friends. “We all drove Francis to Houston for cancer treatments recently — he’s a cancer survivor,” said Ms. Coleman, a 57-year-old Texas Christian University professor.

Chang, 81, who is retired from Lockheed Martin and Ms. Coleman have been bridge partners for eight years. Both live in Fort Worth. Ms. Helmers, 71, lives in Stephenville, and often stays overnight with Ms. Coleman as they prepare for bridge tournaments.

They sat at a table at the Harvey Convention Center at the Tournament of Stars East Texas Regional Bridge Tournament on Friday and talked about their love of Tyler, the new friends they make at tournaments and the beauty of the city.

“The people here are so friendly – we’ve eaten at Jakes twice,” Ms. Coleman said with a laugh, referring to the restaurant in downtown Tyler on Erwin Street.

Unit 225 of the American Contract Bridge League and the Tyler Convention and Visitors Bureau are hosting the tournament. The last time the tournament came to Tyler was in 2010. It began on Monday and will end on Sunday.

“We will have 700 or so players in and out of here,” Su Doe, a tournament directors, said. Anyone in the world may play in the Tournament of Stars, and they can play at the beginning level or at the championship level, she said.

Players were expected to travel from all over the United States and Canada, Bridge Club Director and Co-Chairwoman Ginger Rhamey said of the event.

The weeklong tournament with the hundreds of players provides a good shot in the arm for the local economy. “We are so very fortunate to have this convention in Tyler – the economic impact for the city will be over $180,000,” Shari Rickman, vice president and general manager of the Tyler Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said in a released statement.

Ms. Coleman said there are plans to hold the next bridge tournament in 2015 at Tyler’s new hotel and convention center, to be built at South Broadway and Toll 49 after it is complete.

Both a championship bridge player and a professional player talked Friday about their love for the game and for attending the tournament on Friday.

Steve Shirey, 55, is a professional bridge player from Fort Worth who has been playing for about 30 years. He said he runs bridge games on cruises and gives lessons to two to four people at a time. Shirey was playing for pay at this week’s tournament in Tyler. Next week, he will attend a national tournament in Atlanta.

Shirey earns his living playing bridge. “You have to convince someone you are a good enough and convince someone to pay you,” he said.

Barbara Baker, 71, also hails from Fort Worth, and recently became a Life Master in the American Contract Bridge League. “I love your town,” she said of Tyler.

For more information on the ACBL or the regional tournament, contact Ginger Rhamey atgrhamey@hotmail.com or call 903-521-8041.