By Larry Sherman
The San Diego bridge community lost a big hitter recently; it's Mickey Mantle, really. Roger Doughman may have resided on Friars Road, but he lived for and in, San Diego rooms featuring duplicate bridge. His was a titan to our culture, much in the way Grant Baze, Evan Bailey, and Lena Jelusich had been before their passings.
A number of fellow players have taken the time to contribute their memories:
John Coufal: In 1964, I moved to San Diego to start my career. I soon entered the bridge community, and that became my second family for many years.
As a young player, you immediately seek out the other players who have earned the respect of their peers.
At that time, there were four players who you would approach if you had found a hand that just seemed too difficult to grasp. The four players who, in my mind, stood out at that time were Bob Rosenblum, Al Silverman, Marvin French, and Roger Doughman. I then began what would be an almost 60 year friendship built on mutual respect.
Roger had what I considered to be a very quiet demeanor at the bridge table, but it was his intensity that I always respected. He took the game seriously and gave his utmost effort to the hand in front of him, no matter if he was playing in a 4 table local game or the final round of a national event. He respected the game.
I will always remember Roger and Lena at the table after a bad board. Roger would begin his discussion of the play and probably try to justify his particular approach or why he was not happy with her approach to the hand. You could sense Lena throughout saying, "Roger, you just stop that."
Robert Rosenblum: I had known Roger since autumn 1954, far longer than any other bridge player in San Diego. He has had the best record of anyone at the local bridge table. Roger was stable and a bit of a pixie. Consider my very favorite hand we played:
My hand: A10xxx, KJxxx, void, Qxx. RHO opens 1C and I, playing 1955 Goren, overcall 1S. LHO passes, and Roger calls 2C which is passed to me. So, not overwhelmed with my holding, I try 2H. After another pass, Roger, without a noticeable pause, continues with 7H! His hand: Kx, AQ10xxxxx, Axx, void. We were cold without bothering to play when I claimed eight trumps, two spades, the diamond ace and two diamond ruffs in hand.
Roger and I loved to play with the ladies. He won a national event with Lena Jelusich, with whom he had a partnership for forty years!
Roger loved playing tennis and jogging in the old days. He sure outlasted me. I sure miss him very much.
Suzanne LeBendig: My 1st date with Roger was Christmas day. We went to the Hotel Del, and that was the beginning. Roger always thought he had a great bridge hand and would bid it several times over. Good thing his declarer play was good. There was one player, name not included, that always seemed to get him. One fun time we had was the Winter regional in Palm Springs. A pro needed a pair for the Swiss teams. The client wasn't very good, but we had a great day and came in second!
1) He and Lena had a very successful partnership, doing well on the tournament trail for many years.
2) He was always friendly, greeting people at the club. He would play with beginning and intermediate players even though he was at the top level. (Admittedly, the beginning and intermediate players I saw him play with were female, and Roger did like to flirt.)
3) Roger liked Hawaiian shirts, and I admired his shirts as well. One particular shirt (lavender with white flowers) I told Roger was my favorite shirt. We would tease each other when he wore it (every couple of months or so). He would say: "I'm wearing your favorite shirt," and I would tell him that it was an excellent choice. Or I would say to him, "I see you have my favorite shirt on today. When do I get to wear it?"
So, to my surprise, just as the pandemic was beginning, Suzanne (LeBendig) delivered the shirt--freshly washed, ironed, in a plastic bag--letting me know that it was a present from Roger. So, whenever I wear the shirt or see it in my closet, I think fondly of Roger.
Carolyn Casey: As you know, our life with Roger goes back 30, maybe 40 years or more. Because his wife and children were Jehovah, he always spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with us, in addition to all the birthdays, including his own. He would come over every Sunday morning after church, even when my father was alive, which was over 23 years ago.
Roy Green: Roger was an outstanding bridge player and exemplified the highest ethical standards at the table. It was my pleasure to play against him at the bridge table.
Lamya Agelidis: I'd only known Roger for the last twelve years and wish I'd met him earlier. When I first joined the bridge circuit in San Diego, I dreaded getting to this top seed at Table 3. He somehow always managed to get overtricks or fool me into a losing defense strategy. As they say, when you can't beat them, join them, so he mentored me for a while. As a partner, Roger was a pleasure to watch in action (especially when I was dummy). Sit back and relax, and watch the master play his contracts. As an opponent, he was fierce and fearless, and it was rare that I left his table unscathed. Despite his competitive streak, Roger showed his lighter side frequently. He was the consummate flirt with the ladies, and you couldn't help but smile at his jokes. He had a big heart and a spark always in his eyes. I will miss Roger.
Rick Roeder: My friendship with Roger is not only related to our passion for bridge but our interest in tennis. I remember one piece of advice he gave me after we had played doubles with the woman I was dating at the time. "She's not for you." Turned out he was right. The strength of Roger's bridge game was his card play. Truly excellent.
I was honored to host his retirement party. He was an engineer for the County. His close friend, Lena Jelusich, provided lots of help in pulling off a fun party.
Dorn Bishop: Roger and I were partners, teammates, and opponents at the bridge table for over 30 years. A kind soul, a fierce competitor, and those BICEPS that had well into his nine-ties. Just one look at those and you could tell that he seized each day of his life with a loving vengeance.
Roger had a winning smile and a winning way about him whether or not he was on a winning streak, which he usually was. Except for his strong Christian faith, I don't know that anything gave Roger more pleasure than declaring a hand, which he did magnificently well (and infuriatingly often!).
Job well done, Roger. All I can say in closing is that the angels had best be wary about letting you into their regular duplicate game, especially if you show up with a demure playing partner who happens to look like Lena Jelusich.
Phyllis Yates: I was going to Hawaii to play golf. Roger asked me to buy a Hawaiian shirt for him because it would be much less expensive in Hawaii, suggesting I could pay $5 to $10. He suggested Goodwill... I replied, "I don't think there's a Goodwill store where I'm going."... Although I did search the stores I went home empty-handed.
Bill Grant: No special story except he was an excellent player and fun at the table.
John Boackle, jr.: 30 years ago, I knew of Roger Doughman as a great player who seemed very nice and was obviously well known and heralded as an expert in duplicate bridge, a game I'd already fallen in love with. I was new to duplicate then, and although I played against him often over the years, I didn't really get to know him very well until more than 20 years later, after I had retired. I bid on a chance to play with him at one of our Unit 539's charity auctions about 7 years ago. After we played the agreed upon game, I was so complimented when he asked me if I'd like to play again, and of course, I quickly agreed! From there, we played every Tuesday that both of us were available through these last 7 years - right up until mid-August this year, which would be our last game. Roger was a pleasure to play with and so kind and personable to everyone at the table - especially the ladies!! We had such high percentage games - and his hand evaluation, declarer play, and overall focus at the bridge table were a wonder to witness, much less be in partnership with. I also got to play many times in the monthly Crates game Roger hosted for his family! He will truly be missed.
Larry Sherman: Roger was perpetually a happy go lucky guy at the bridge table. In the many years of playing against him, I can only recall one instance when he lost his cool. There may be a lesson to be learned by up and coming players from this experience. Back in the day of Handicapped Knock Out events, playing at a Sectional in San Diego, probably around 2008, a band of novices with a team total of under 400 master points faced off against a team led by Roger with about 48,000. Jean Molnar came to our table with a pick up slip, noting we had a 16 or 18 IMP handicap. On an auction where our side never interfered, Roger became declarer in 3NT. His partner laid down a suitable dummy, with the diamond suit on the left side facing Roger. My partner led a spade, a super lead considering I had the AJTxx sitting over the Qx in dummy. Roger's K won trick 1 over my 10, and Roger proceeded with his game plan. After my partner got in and led a S through, I won the next S trick with the J and when I played the A Roger told dummy to ruff it. Roger thought he was playing a D contract after pard set up diamonds to his left. For the remainder of the round, Roger was, well, not Roger. Our team lost head to head by 3 IMPs, but with our 16 - 18 IMP handicap, easily moved on.
I played against Roger over the last 10 years of his bridge career, possibly past his prime, but still as crafty as a fox. We would always enjoy a good laugh prior to, and after the rounds we played together. I took it as a personal compliment to me that in those final couple of years, the level of laughter remained the same prior to, but subsided following the round's end.
As of July 2, 2023, Roger had 17,228.82 masterpoints. He was a Plantium Life Master.