French game rolls into Claremont

A little piece of Europe was unveiled in Claremont’s June Vail Park on Sunday, January 18. What used to be an abandoned equestrian facility has turned into a pétanque paradise, thanks to the Claremont Senior Program and some very active residents.

Opening day for the games consisted of both pétanque (pronounced pay-tonk) veterans and newcomers, with approximately 80 curious guests ready to participate.

The peculiar European game came to be in 1907 and since then has grown to be one of the most prominent French pastimes, spreading in popularity throughout the world. Since 1958, the international governing body of pétanque, also known as Fédération Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal, has monitored, shared this pursuit and grown to have approximately 600,000 members in over 52 countries.

The game is often compared to bocce ball but, for those unfamiliar with the game, can also be easily compared to a life-size version of marbles.

In the game, opponents throw hollow metal balls towards a smaller wooden ball called a “cochonnet” from a designated spot on the arena outlined by a small circle. Whoever gets the ball closest to the cochonnet gets one point. The game continues until a player reaches 13 and wins the game. A more detailed set of rules can be found on usapetanque.org.

The new pétanque arena is currently home to a group of people just playing to enjoy their time. However, these budding athletes hope to have the game and location grow in popularity and to establish their own club.

Having played the game for more than 10 years, traveled for tournaments in Florida and often commuting from pétanque clubs in Los Angeles and Palm Desert, Ben and Karen Bull began their mission to bring pétanque to Claremont months ago. With the help of the Joslyn Center, they were able to make it happen.

They hope to get enough interest in the game in order to build their own club and one day host a regional competition at the Claremont arena.

Though it is a city program and put on under the auspices of the Claremont Senior Program, all are welcome to join in their games, which are held on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. No special attire is necessary and equipment and lessons are available for anyone who needs it.

“Pétanque reaches a full spectrum of people,” Mr. Bull explained. “It can break barriers between people of different backgrounds and can be played from birth to death—it’s not a discriminatory game.”

For more information about Claremont Pétanque, call (909) 399-5488 or email claremontpetanque@gmail.com.

—Veronica Orozco

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