Lynn Yokel: Rising TD Star

Lynn Yokel, winner of the Jean Molnar Employee of the Year award

When Lynn Yokel was a child growing up in San Francisco, she had a sort-of introduction to bridge, mostly attributable to the fact that her parents played. She didn’t really understand bridge, however, until she got to high school.

Yokel recalls that public school teachers frequently went on strike on those days (the 1970s), and when they did, parents of the students would go to the schools and “do interesting things with the kids.”

One day, one of the parents arrived with a determination to teach bridge to the idle students.

Armed with a better understanding of the game, Yokel kept playing. She continued to play occasionally, even while studying at the University of California at Berkeley. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the school, but never practiced in the field.

After college, she worked as a typesetter for Arabian Horse World magazine and in other jobs.

After marrying in 1982 and having two children, she was a stay-at-home mom, but she still yearned to play bridge.

In 1992, Yokel put an ad in a diaper service newsletter seeking other mothers to join her in a regular bridge game. The responses were quick and plentiful, and for a while she and other mothers met at each other’s houses for bridge. “We would usually get in only a couple of hands because of the babies and the talking,” she recalls.

Things changed when Yokel and Annette Powers, one of the other mothers, realized they were more serious about the game. In 1994, they worked up their courage and went to a duplicate game in San Jose. “We had no idea what we were doing,” Yokel says, “and they politely directed us to the newcomer games.”

That launched Yokel’s bridge career, as she and her friend started playing regularly at the local club and going to tournaments. As she came to love tournaments, Yokel eventually took an interest in the administrative side of the game.

Today, Yokel is a Diamond Life Master (5000+ masterpoints) and a highly regarded member of ACBL’s team of directors.

“Lynn has the bridge smarts and the people smarts that make up the perfect combination for her to become one of the best,” says Arleen Harvey, ACBL’s field supervisor for the districts that include Yokel’s home town of Campbell, in the San Francisco Bay area. Says Harvey, “I would clone her if I could.”

Yokel’s co-workers’ esteem for her was in evidence on Sunday when it was announced that she is the 2017 recipient of the Jean Molnar Employee of the Year award, named in honor of the beloved TD from San Diego who died of cancer in March 2016.

TD Matt Koltnow says Yokel “combines being a pro with being customer-service oriented and friendly. The qualities we loved in Jean are what Lynn exemplifies.”

Yokel’s interest in directing began after she started teaching bridge at her home while still playing. She eventually branched out by buying the Tuesday evening game at the San Jose club along with two other players. That led to the start of an EasyBridge game every Thursday evening. Yokel still runs four games a week at that club.

Yokel found herself attracted to directing because of her love of tournaments and the friendships she developed with directors. At one tournament about five years ago, she talked to National TD Matt Smith about directing. “He was very encouraging,” Yokel says. She took the TD exam and soon was working sectional tournaments. She notes that there are sectionals easily accessible from San Jose just about every weekend, so help was needed. Her first assignment was at a sectional in Monterrey. Her first regional was in Sacramento. “That was really exciting,” she says, “because regionals are so much more complicated than I realized.”

Yokel’s first truly big tournament was the 2014 Summer NABC in Las Vegas. She went to attend a seminar for new TDs and ended up working a national event. “They threw us out on the floor. It was much more challenging, and there was a lot of action, but I came through it OK. I survived.”

Yokel recalls that early in her directing career, she worked almost exclusively with veteran TD Dianne Barton-Paine. “I saw how people reacted to her,” Yokel says. “Everyone loved her. It was what I aspired to for myself.”

Barton-Paine says Yokel is her favorite TD to work with. “From the beginning,” Barton-Paine noted, “she was always a step ahead. The IN people love her, and she’s also a very good player. You can put her anywhere.”

Harvey, Yokel’s “boss,” says Yokel is “very low key with a wonderful presence at the table, and she is respected by novices and high-level players.”

“I try very hard,” Yokel says, “to be friendly and in a good mood when I’m called to the table.” Yokel doesn’t play as much as she once did, so she misses that aspect of bridge, but she still can still have fun at bridge without turning a card. “I’m lucky,” she says, “to work with people I like who are really good at what they do.”