For seniors, growing sport of bocce ball hits the target

By: Bob Magnetti
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Gold Country News Service Although these are typically quiet, peaceful retirement communities, the tranquil evenings at both Sun City Roseville and Lincoln Hills can sometimes be interrupted with lots of cheers and voices of encouragement. Blame it on bocce. A social game that in the past was played mainly among family and friends, bocce has become fiercely competitive, with local leagues, state, national and international championships at stake. In the tiny Bay Area community of Martinez alone, there are more than 120 teams that play nightly in organized leagues during the summer months. Locally, at the two Placer County retirement communities, bocce has become a major recreational activity. The spirit of bocce can be witnessed almost any night. Although a gentle game, sometimes it can become loud and boisterous, especially when a good shot is made or a close point lost. Bocce, a game born in the small mountain villages of Italy, has been called a game for the ages. All ages play it, from teens to octogenarians. Brought to the United States by Italian immigrants near the beginning of the last century, bocce has delighted and captured the hearts and minds of millions in the United States and now around the world. ?Our club is very social,? said Bob Horning, president of the Sun City Roseville Bocce Club. ?We play every evening from 6:30 to about 8 o?clock.? The Roseville club, organized six years ago, has about 350 members, with about 60 of them active. They play on six courts near the main clubhouse at Sun City Roseville. The Lincoln Hills club, The Mad Hatters, started about 3½ years ago, according to member Jack Fabian. They have about 60 active members as well, who share 12 very busy courts. Like their counterparts in Roseville, The Mad Hatters are there for the fun and social aspects. They play Thursday mornings, but the courts are open daily for general play. ?Ed Law started the club about 3½ years ago,? Fabian said. Fabian and Law are two of the original property owners in the Lincoln Hills community. ?(Law) got a lot of the neighborhood together and we started playing, ? Fabian said. ?We didn?t know anything about the game, but Ed had a set of rules. We played once a week for a couple of hours. There were 20 or 30 of us.? In recent years, bocce has become a worldwide competitive sport, with world championships being held even in communist China and the former Soviet Union. Horning, though, was attracted by the social aspects of the game, not tournament play. After retiring and moving from Concord, he began playing bocce about four years ago. ?I was looking for different activities that I hadn?t done before and I decided on bocce,? Horning said. ?It?s a great place to meet friends and also good exercise. After playing two or three games and walking up and down the court, I can feel it in my legs.? Fabian, former production manager at the Formica plant in Rocklin, agrees with Horning, saying bocce is a great way to meet people. ?We?ve had a lot of fun,? Fabian said. ?You meet a lot of good people; a lot of great players and a lot of lousy players.? The Mad Hatters have monthly club tournaments throughout the year and a monthly potluck during the summer months. In the cooler spring and fall months, the members play in the afternoons. The Roseville club has monthly tournaments from March through October, in addition to open play nightly during the week. The tournaments range from a random draw format for men and women, to mixed tournaments, to the club championship. The Roseville bocce club also has about six bocce parties during the year, including Halloween, Christmas, a spring social and a Fourth of July function. Both clubs stick close to home, rarely playing in outside tournaments. But both Horning and Fabian have expressed interest in expanding the activities by having informal functions with other clubs in the area. Anything to be social and bocce is a very social game.