By Charles Layton, photos by Mary Walton
The 5th annual Beach Bocce Classic went off without a hitch on Saturday, and the players were especially complimentary of the good condition of the courts this year.
Ocean Grove’s two side-by-side bocce courts – next to Fletcher Lake at Broadway – have been in existence for 25 years or longer, but they haven’t always been well kept. This year, thanks to the volunteer labor of a group of neighbors, they were.
The competitors (there were 20 this year) are old childhood, high school and college friends of Chris and Jamie McGuire. Chris is the tournament’s official commissioner.
“I think we did bocce before it was cool,” Jamie said.
Most of the players are from elsewhere than Ocean Grove, and a few are from out of state, including two people who flew in from Tampa. This friendly little one-day tournament (and lakeside picnic) is one of those traditional get-togethers that often occur on summer weekends at the shore.
The McGuires had previously lived in Brooklyn but have lived here full-time for three years because they prefer The Grove’s small-town atmosphere. Brooklyn, Chris said, “was like the concrete jungle – lots of noise, lots of smells.”
“What I love about bocce is, it’s the ultimate beginner’s game,” he said. “Anyone can come out here and be good at it. It takes work to be great, but anyone can be good.”
The McGuires said Bradley Beach has four good bocce courts, and there is also a court at Porta Pizza in Asbury Park. But apparently, in this general area, bocce hasn’t yet reached the state of critical mass that would allow for a bocce league. Jamie said she wishes that would happen.
Connie Ogden said she and a few neighbors along Broadway use the Ocean Grove bocce courts on Mondays, and other assorted groups can be found there from time to time. (People have to bring their own bocce balls.)
Ogden said the people who originally built and maintained the courts were Fred Herbst, Jim Buchanan and Red Minnis. After Fred Herbst died, a plaque in his honor was placed at the courts. Ogden inherited his maintenance tools – a rake and a rolling machine, although the rolling machine was stolen two years ago, she said.
Ogden and some friends from the neighborhood are keeping the grassy area free of weeds and debris, and the clay courts raked and smoothed.
“The fact that the courts were cleaned up draws more people to play,” she said.