by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Looking at the playing area from the side, these boules show several games in play at the same time. Aficionados of “pétanque” from up and down the West Coast converged on Westmoreland Park on the weekend of July 27th – for the Northwest Regional Doubles Tournament, hosted by the Portland Pétanque Club.

Pétanque is a French game, similar to bocce, and is considered to be the ancestral sport for most boules (bowling-like) games. Both pétanque and bocce involve getting players to roll their balls as close to a thrown cochonnet (marker) as possible – but pétanque balls are made of metal.

In the playing area that they share with the Portland Lawn Bowling Club, located near the north end of the park, Portland Pétanque Club President Steve Walker had just completed a game as we arrived.

“Our club has over 100 members,” Walker told THE BEE. “Members come here from all over the greater Portland area to play pétanque.”

At this particular weekend tournament, twenty teams of two players each came to compete during a day event, which included a banquet at their clubhouse.

“A friend of mine who is a member invited me to play about three or four years ago, in the winter,” Walker said. “I live a walking distance away, because I live in Westmoreland, so I gave it a try – and have been playing ever since. I love to play in the winter, especially in sleet and rain! I’m a true Oregonian, I guess.”

It’s a sport that’s easy to learn, Walker observed, but it takes a lifetime to perfect.

Even though the equipment is relatively inexpensive – ranging from $30 to $90 per set – the club is willing to lend balls to those who’d like to give pétanque a throw, Walker said.

“People see us playing as they walk through the park, and some will stop at the fence to watch and ask questions. We encourage people to come on in and give it try.”

To learn the game from France’s Marco Foyot, a world-class championship pétanque player, the Portland club is hosting him for classes and clinics on October 12, and for a “friendly tournament” on October 13. The public is welcome to attend both events.

You’ll find them pitching pétanque on ’most any Wednesday and Sunday afternoon. Stop by and give the game a throw.

--- INFO BOX ---

Portland Pétanque Club

2320 S.E. Bybee Boulevard

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