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Kona Bridge Club keeping popular card game alive

  • Bette Hirsch plays with the Kona Bridge Club at the Makua Lani Christian Academy Bridge Building. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Sharon Weber, left, Shelly Hershberger, Elizabeth Reid and Richard Gittelman play with the Kona Bridge Club at the Makua Lani Christian Academy Bridge Building. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Members concentrate on the game at the Kona Bridge Club at the Makua Lani Christian Academy Bridge Building. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — It’s a complicated card game that requires quiet, intense concentration, a set of rules that could fill a novel and terminology that can be intimidating to someone who has never played.

But for the members of the Kona Bridge Club, it’s — almost — a piece of cake.

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“Bridge is a game that appeals to lifelong learners, because it’s a game that can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it,” Dee Fulton said. “It’s like peeling an onion. You think you have it, and then there’s another layer, if you want to go there. But you don’t have to.”

In Fulton’s class for bridge beginners, future members of the Kona Bridge Club are learning the basics, one layer at a time. The class runs alongside the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL)-certified club’s weekly Saturday game at Makua Lani Christian Academy, and the class aims to teach people interested in understanding the game and also those who are from a different generation than the club’s current members. But maybe to appeal to younger players, an onion isn’t the only metaphor that can be used for bridge.

“Bridge is like sex,” student Pamela Small said. “You either need a really good partner or a really good hand.”

And at around 80-100 members strong — the club doesn’t keep a set list of members, just a mailing list— bridge players in the Kailua-Kona area have plenty of good partners to choose from.

“You get relationships and friendships going. It’s a common thing we all like to do,” president Kurt Weidner said.

The current members of the Kona Bridge Club are, on average, senior citizens. The appeal of bridge for older men and women is to keep the mind mentally healthy, while providing an outlet to socialize. The club currently holds three open games of duplicate bridge a week, at 1 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays for $7 per person.

“As I’m retired, it provides activity for me since I’m not as physical as I might have been 20 or 30 years ago,” club manager Sara Ito said.

The Kona Bridge Club is one of three clubs that form the Big Island unit of the ACBL, the others being the Waikoloa Bridge Club and the Hilo Bridge Club. The Kona Bridge Club has been playing since the 1970s, when it first played at Hale Halawai on Alii Drive, and then moved onto bigger venues until the club found itself at Hualalai Academy.

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In 2001, Hualalai Academy built a campus north of Kailua-Kona, the same location where Makua Lani Christian Academy is today.

Joanne Clark, the Kona Bridge Club president at the time, struck an agreement with the school to build a multi-purpose facility that could be used by both students and bridge players.

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