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Bocce players keep the ball rolling

Popular lawn game a big hit at Maris Grove

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April 24th, 2012
Maris Grovesports lots of athletic activities, but few rival the popularity of bocce, a lawn game steeped in French and Italian history. Close to 60 two-person teams play in the six-week spring and fall mixed leagues at Erickson Living s Glen Mills community. Spring play starts this month and will keep Maris Grove s two bocce courts busy five days a week. In October, each season s winners compete in an annual tournament. Fans can watch the action courtside, from windows in Heron Court and Sparrow s Ridge residence buildings, or from the lounge and lobby areas of Cardinal Clubhouse. The courts are the nicest I ve ever played on concrete covered with outdoor carpeting, says the club s co-chair Ike Watkin. Ike, who had started a bocce group when he lived in Florida, moved to Maris Grove from Westchester, Pa. When he heard that residents were forming a bocce club, he was the first person to sign up. Scheduling league and tournament play is a big job, but Ike has plenty of volunteers who lend a hand. For example, Ross Zelesnick, a club founder, does the scheduling.

Hooked on bocce

Most league participants had never played bocce until they moved to Maris Grove. That includes Alice and Dick Young, who moved from Woodbury, N.J. Tennis was their game. In fact, Alice says they d never heard of bocce. Before the couple moved, Maris Grove community member Don Nace, a tennis and bocce player who had been their neighbor in Woodbury, invited them for tennis on Maris Grove s courts and lunch in one of its restaurants. We liked everything about Maris Grove, and I d never met a more congenial group of people, says Alice. But the big draw was no cooking. We signed up [to live there] the next week. The Youngs moved in late 2008. The following spring they took up bocce. It s an easy game to play, says Dick. You can learn in one session. They didn t know that league play ended with a fall tournament. The game was so exciting, we simply looked forward to playing it each day, Alice says. As luck would have it, they not only made the playoffs, they won the tournament. Alice took the next year off. When she returned in 2011, the Youngs won again. Alice carries our team, says Dick. The couple also plays in Maris Grove s informal summer bocce groups. Dick joined the Wednesday morning men s group, then started a Thursday morning women s group so Alice could play. Our friends kid us about being on the bocce courts nearly every day, Dick says. But it gets us out in the fresh air, and it s a great way to make friends. Bocce is a game for almost all seasons.

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