For the third time in six years, Campo di Bocce of Livermore will play host to the annual tournament that puts the talents of the best bocce players in America on display. The 2011 Peroni United States Bocce Championship gets underway on Saturday, June 25, and continues through the week, culminating in the men's finals scheduled for Saturday afternoon, July 2. During the week, play will also take place at Campo di Bocce of Los Gatos, the other venue owned by local bocce enthusiast Ben Musolf, himself an expert player.
Open to the public with no admission charge, the tournament provides the perfect opportunity for the uninitiated to become acquainted with a sport that has been challenging mankind for thousands of years. As the U.S. Bocce Federation points out, throwing balls toward a fixed target is the oldest game in world history. Taking root in the regions around Mediterranean Europe over several thousand years, bocce has evolved considerably, leading to a number of styles with different rules.
During the week of championship matches, roughly 175 players from 80 teams across the country will compete for the national title and the chance to represent the U.S. at the 2012 World Bocce Championship - which will also held at Campo de Bocce's Livermore and Los Gatos venues, next May. "It's a real honor to host these events," Musolf comments. "It helps so much to promote the growth of the game locally and nationally."
In addition to building awareness and recruiting youngsters to feed local teams, Musolf has his eye on another lofty goal; either making bocce an Olympic event or establishing a professional circuit in the U.S. "Europe has paid professional bocce players, who are sponsored and traded from club to club. The top players can make well over six figures in Euros in sponsorship money." That detail is much less of a surprise when you consider that, after soccer and golf, bocce is the third most practiced sport in the world.
While bocce is not yet mainstream in the U.S., it has a growing fan base of more than 25 million enthusiasts. In the Tri-Valley, public courts are available at the Pleasanton Senior Center, in Danville, Dublin, and San Ramon. They are also becoming very popular in the home backyard, reports Musolf, who has personally consulted on the building of more than 500 courts for athletic clubs, apartment complexes, and neighborhood facilities. At 88 feet long by 11.5 feet wide, today's regulation courts have moved beyond the traditional oyster shell and sand composition to smooth, synthetic surfaces finished with a state-of-the-art polyurethane coating. Balls have also gone high tech, with precision milled hardened plastic exteriors to assure controllable performance.
Despite these advances, the sport retains the elements responsible for its enduring appeal: very inexpensive to play, requiring minimal equipment, and fun to watch.
For more information on Campo di Bocce of Livermore and the tournament, visit www.campodibocce.com . As part of Hacienda Special Offers, the facility offers Hacienda employees and residents free bocce play on Mondays until 5:00 p.m., along with a 15 percent off discount on dining for family or corporate events. For complete details, go to www.hacienda.org/ho/cn1000_CampodiBocce.html .
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