Bocce, you say? It used to be just old Italian men in wife-beaters rolling little balls. Meet the new bocce! It is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S., and it is taking over as the “in and hip thing to do” on many a day or night, right here in Chico. Given, California is the home of more residential bocce courts than other place in the world, but a lot of those are found at the homes of classy vintners in the Napa Valley. But in Chico, we not only have regular people with backyard courts, we also have two 90-foot, covered and lit, perfectly groomed regulation courts hidden away in an almond orchard at the edge of town.

On Saturday July 27th, twelve men and six women competed in a one-on-one tournament to determine who is the best darn bocce player around. We have had many tournaments before at the Estes Courts in addition to weekly league play, but these are always teams of two or four. This was the first time an official contest of a gladiator-style, player-on-player tournament has occurred. Everyone was super psyched to see who would take home the title of “King of  the Court.”

One wonderful thing about bocce is that anyone can play—any gender, any age. And you don’t have to be super athletic to be a great player. Of course the more you play, the more you realize that it comes down to skill, strategy, and a bit of luck to get the points to win your round and advance in the competition.

Since this was double-elimination, you had to lose twice to be out. Once out you get to relax, get out of the heat, and have another cocktail, to ruminate over your bad shot in style.

It took nine hours to get to the final four players. Games were played to 11 points or 25 minutes. Many of the games were tied when the buzzer sounded, and so they went to a final death throw. Every round along the way had some great shots, and all the players are to be congratulated for great games. The women were so pumped to see three of the original six make it to the semi-finals. Who would be Queen? Enough of this King stuff! But, as it turned out it was a man’s world afterall. Rick Bair, holding many past titles, took first place with his amazing, unbeatable long game. Congratulations, RB! And he won $500. Rosemary Febbo was a close second. She is taking her $100 and her bocce skills to Italy for a year. We will miss you, Mama Rose. The third place winner happened to be me—a person so bocce-obsessed that I spend my free time organizing the local league. I received my $50 entry fee back.

Thanks go out to Kaelin Davis (4th place winner) and Denver Latimer for organizing this great day! But now we need to call it “Best Player in Chico.”

Go to chicobocce.com for more information