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Portland -- and Westmoreland Park -- are prominent in the world of the sport of Petanque

DAVID F. ASHTON - Peter Mathis, a player who came all the way from New York, throws his steel ball, working to help his team win this game of Petanque. Well before any wintry weather hit last fall, the 4th annual "Rose City Open Petanque Tournament" brought 44 teams from around the world to compete in this French-originated sport – at the north end of Westmoreland Park.

"The six-team delegation from Algeria wasn't able to come as they'd hoped, but we're hosting teams from Sweden, France, Canada – and several previous U.S. National Champions call our club their home," smiled Portland Petanque Club President Steve Walker, at the park on September 16.

Although the sport of Petanque (pronounced similarly to "pe-TONK") is more than a century old, and is one of the world's most popular games, it hasn't been an Olympic sport. However, it is slated to become an Olympic discipline in 2024, Walker said.

On the club's courts – topped with a light covering of pea gravel – teams took turns, paying no heed to the blazing sun, or the most polluted air seen in Portland recent years, from the Columbia Gorge wildfires.

"This is an easy game to pick up, but it can take a lifetime to perfect your skills. It can be played by people of all ages," Walker assured THE BEE.

The goal, he said, is to throw is to throw or roll a number of hollow steel balls (called boules) close to a little wooden ball (called the cochonnet); and, in the process, knock the opposing team's boules further away from the cochonnet.

Watching players throwing, pitching, and rolling steel balls makes Petanque look like an inexact sport. Yet, when it comes to wins and losses, many matches end up being a "game of millimeters". Players bring out their measuring tapes to determine which team scored points.

"This is the largest number of teams we've hosted at a tournament; but we have enough court space to add another six teams next year," Walker remarked.

Other than the international competition at Amelia Island, Florida – put on by that city and its county government to attract tourists – the Portland club hosts the largest independent, nonprofit, sponsored Petanque tournament in the United States.

"People say they come here because they love to play here at our club in this beautiful park, take pleasure in our hospitality, and enjoy visiting Portland," Walker reflected, adding that it's also a boon to the Portland economy with visiting players staying at B&Bs and hotels, and dining in local restaurants.

Walker said that many people come by the club's gathering in Westmoreland Park on Wednesday or Sunday afternoons, year 'round, take a lesson using the free equipment that the club provides, find they enjoy playing, and become members.

So, if you want to try your hand at the game with this world-class Petanque club, stop by 7535 S.E. 23rd Avenue and meet the players. Or, go online to their website – www.pdxpetanque.org

Walker thanked their "really local" sponsors of Fat Alberts Breakfast Café, San Felipe Taqueria, Moreland Dental, Orange Line Wines, Townshend's Brew Dr. Kombucha, and Keller-Willams Realty; and their Portland metro sponsors La Provence Boulangerie & Patisserie, All Pro Electric, Allen Trust Company, Natural Stone Designs, and Avinode – for their support.

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