Tuesday bocce tradition keeps rolling along

emoody@beaufortgazette.comApril 30, 2012 

They arrive at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park almost every Tuesday afternoon with string, measuring tapes, scoreboards and bocce balls.

With the efficiency of years of practice, they lay out courts, divide into teams and start rolling. The players vary and the group doesn't have a name, but Tuesday afternoon bocce is a tradition Waterfront Park visitors can count on -- unless it's raining.

Nick Hunt, Bob Lantz and Hal Schor are among the founders of the Tuesday games, which started in the Newpoint community on Lady's Island. After about eight years there, they moved to Waterfront Park so they could practice on the same grass they compete on during the Water Festival. Five out of the last six years, someone from their group has won that tournament, Hunt said.

The grass is smoother at the park, Hunt said. The gorgeous view doesn't hurt either, Greg Mauriocourt added, spreading his arms wide and turning toward the Beaufort River.

Other regulars include David Jenney, Dick Porter, Woody Oakley, Frank Coslick and Davis Folson, Hunt said. Additional players join as their schedules permit. Most are retired, but a few, like Hunt, have day jobs that sometimes leave them getting to games late.

While the group started primarily with Newpoint residents, it grew as players invited friends and other bocce fans to join, Hunt said. It takes some effort to play, but it isn't physically taxing like some sports.

"If you've got any competitive bones in your body, it will bring them out," he said.

Each round starts with one player rolling a small, white ball -- the jack -- onto the court. Players take turns rolling larger balls toward the jack, with points awarded for the ones closest to it.

When a group plays as often as this one, Hal Schor confided, its members get to know each other's strengths -- and weaknesses. The players know who tends to throw long or short and where to throw the jack to make the game difficult for their opponents, he said. Some are known for their skills at hitting opponents' balls away from the jack.

Though the games' organization is informal, the competition can get serious. They don't hesitate to pull out a measuring tape to determine who is closer to the jack.

Schor remembers playing Little League baseball as a kid and watching a group of Italian men play bocce. Passionate players, they would wager on throws and games and argue about who was closer.

Now, Schor is one of the men children stop to watch, although he says he's not as vocal as those men years ago.

"Lots of times we get kids and people who will stop and watch and sometimes ask questions," he said.

Some people ask to join in the play, Mauriocourt said. Usually it's an experienced player, but occasionally the group will teach someone to play.

"It's not hard," Schor said. "It's like tennis. Anyone can play."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.

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