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Golden Gifts

by Peggy Kaplan

Michael Golden’s first brush with bridge began with kibitzing. His dad, Ike, played in a rubber bridge game with Michael’s older cousin Marvin Kurtz and uncles. As he watched them play, 8 year old Michael wished he could be part of the action.

When he turned 16, Michael’s father handed him a bridge book. “If you read it, we’ll go to the bridge club to play.” Michael took Dad up on it. Once a week, they’d compete at the Bergen Bridge Center in Teaneck. The field was tough; Marty Fleisher, Mike Kamil, Danny Sprung, Bob Blanchard, Drew Casen, Marc & Stasha Cohen, Rozanne & Bill Pollack and Phil Martin were all regulars.

Michael forged a partnership with another young player; 11 year old Mike Kamil. Soon, they were always high on the leaderboard. During Michael’s first sectional, the boys won the Non-Masters Pairs by 2.5 boards – and were thrilled to see their names in the New York Times. “Mike had a great temperament for the game,” Michael tells me. “A poor result never rattled him. His ethics and maturity at the table – even as a teenager – were stellar. That Michael is honored with the Sidney H. Lazard Jr. Sportmanship Award is no surprise whatsoever.”

Michael and Mike’s last memorable game together occurred in the Swiss Teams at the 1977 Chicago NABC. Teamed with Mike’s mother and a pick up partner, they stormed through their first 5 matches, winning all.

Through the 80’s, Michael competed in the strong greater New York field. Highlights were high finishes in a grueling District 3 GNT, including beating teams that included Steve Weinstein and John Shermer, and another with Larry Cohen and Marty Bergen. In the 24 team field, their squad ultimately succumbed in the finals to Mike Kamil, Ron Gerard, Steve Sanborn and Bruce Rogoff.

Around 1990, Michael’s bridge career was put on hold. His career as a derivatives trader, and commitment to family, took priority. But about a decade later, bridge returned to Michael’s life. With a slower pace on the trading floor, Michael would bid Challenge the Champ hands. Bobby Levin, trading in a shared booth with Michael, served as consultant!

When New York was host to the Summer NABC, Michael officially returned to bridge. A cancelled date for Chris Compton ended up in a game for Michael and Chris. The partnership clicked, and the two made it to the third day of the Life Master Pairs. Ever since, they continue to play in two NABCs annually.

Perhaps, however, Michael’s favorite partner remains his original one: father Ike. At almost 88, Ike is still an active ACBL Member, playing at least an average of 4 times a week at the club. A highlight of every NABC Michael attends is a Charity Game with his dad.

“Dad is very optimistic,” Michael explains. “Often, we end up in slams that others couldn’t conceive of bidding!” Yet when they make, Ike simply smiles at Michael and says, “We were the only ones there!”

Like others of us with parents who are “up there,” Michael realizes how fortunate he is to have his dad – and to be able to enjoy a game at the NABC with Ike. “Playing at the nationals, we have some quality time together doing something we really enjoy. Being able to take advantage of it is a gift.”