Judy Kay-Wolff


When first learning to count to thirteen — it was surreal playing with a foursome at home or attending a friendly neighborhood duplicate.  In those days, at least for me in 1955, it was a school night out — socializing with the regulars and eventually moving on to the Sectionals, Regionals and Nationals.  By some quirk of fate, I worked my way up to the world championships  — courtesy of my late husband, Norman Kay, and presently as Mrs. Bobby Wolff (as a kibitzer, of course).  What a thrill to watch your loved ones vie for the Gold!  In the former years, traveling was exhilarating and I could not wait to pack for my next adventure — Deauville,  London, Taipei, Montreal, Shanghai, Beijing, Verona, Monaco, Timbuktu — anywhere  — just anywhere!   But since 911 and the impending security risks and necessary body frisking, together with luggage and pocketbook searches, the fun has subsided and the nuisance replaced the joy of anticipation.   It was just too violating to have them confiscate my nail polish and remover which I had intended to use to break up the marathon flight.  I have come to  believe there is really No Place Like Home (or near home) as I just returned from the local Riviera Sectional (20 minutes from my front door) and looking forward on July 6th for the USBF Senior Championships where Bobby is competing — at the Marriott — three miles from our house here in Vegas).   Of course, at the end of the Senior Trials Rainbow is San Paulo, Brazil — but we’ll worry about that later.

Norman was in a rut (a good one at that).  For about 20-25 years he was glued to Edgar, Eric Murray and Sammy Kehela and Bill Root and Rich Pavlicek.    It  was like our bridge family with never a bitter or unkind word exchanged.    We would retire to Edgar’s suite after the evening session (surrounded by hors d’oeuvres and cocktails) and were lucky not to have to pay an amusement tax listening to raconteur Murray titillate us — sometimes till 2 and 3 a.m.

Back in the sixties sponsors were few and far between although not many knew that Goren shelled out quite a few shekels to his teammates.   He was certainly a decent player but an even greater ‘promoter’ and it was important for him to remain in the limelight — so assuming the role of the invisible sponsor didn’t hurt his image.  I learned this, believe it or not, as Bobby was one of the paid pros on his team.  Stayman, a name familiar for the Stayman Convention also was another who surrounded himself with top players although, a pretty good player himself, needed to bring in the reinforcements to maintain his reputation. 

Of course the first TOTALLY professionally sponsored team was The Dallas Aces (originally including Ira Corn, the money man, who soon became their non-playing captain) and was replaced by a top player.  This sponsored team included Bobby (who helped organize the project with Ira and Dorothy Moore), Jim Jacoby, Mike Lawrence, Bobby Goldman, Billy Eisenberg and a bit later Bob Hamman —  three great pairs playing with their regular partners and getting paid for the pure pleasure of playing the game they loved.  In 1973 and 1974 Mark Blumenthal also played on the team vying to win world championship teams (but unfortunately the exalted Blue Team was in the litter as well).

Next came C. C. Wei who employed another great sextet who carried the American banner proudly.  The other only other strictly professional group (minus a playing sponsor that I know of) which came much later was Madame LaVazza, the Italian coffee magnet, who rooted from the stands but the success of her Italian pro team gave her lots of advertising exposure.  Professionalism actually surfaced about half a century ago but how the floodgates opened up in the last decade!!!!!

Enter the new team breed: five professionals and a wealthy sponsor (some of whom are quite talented and many others I’ve heard referred to as “bridge-challenged” (not my brainchild).  There are dozens of different schools of thoughts on the issue — but playing pro sure beats a real job (as long as bridge continues to flourish and the economy doesn’t  take a further hit).   Except for the ‘C’ word — nothing makes a bigger impact on our game — but since it is so controversial, let us put it on hold until my next blog when we can devote the proper time to the subject — delving into all the pros (pardon the pun) and cons in greater length.    Later!


Chris HasneyJune 28th, 2009 at 4:33 am

I have been both — sponsor and paid to play. I like the latter better.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFJune 28th, 2009 at 4:57 am

Hang on Chris. This was just the prelude!



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