Bowling Them Over

By Hannah Wallace February 28, 2007

Score one for hairstylists and wine importers Freddy and Gilles Canesse, two brothers from the Calais region of northern France who've introduced their beloved national sport, pétanque, to an enthusiastic local audience.

Every Sunday, about 40 members of the Sarasota Club de Pétanque, which the Canesses founded, meet at leafy Lakeview Park in Sarasota to spend the day picnicking and pitching steel balls similar in diameter to a baseball across a dirt field.

The sport is similar to British lawn bowling or Italian bocce. Pétanque players roll, throw or shoot the ball to a target, or cochonnet, six to 10 meters (18 to 30 feet) away. The number of players determines the number of chances each one has, and the first person to reach 13 points wins the game.

According to the official governing body, Federation Pétanque USA, there are 28 pétanque clubs in the United States, most of them in California, but four of them in Florida-Boca Raton, Lake Worth, Santa Rosa Beach and Sarasota. The Canesse brothers, who grew up with the sport, have won more than a dozen tournament medals. Late last year, they were planning a trip to Seaside to compete in the Florida Cup, and Freddy's 16-year-old son was part of the U.S. team that went to the world championships two years ago in Montreal and finished in the top 20.

The Canesse brothers have owned Coiffure de France on Pineapple Avenue in Burns Square since 1983, and more recently they started Canesse Fine Wines, importing and distributing European wines to restaurants and liquor stores from Sarasota to Orlando.

It doesn't take particular strength to excel at pétanque, Gilles Canesse readily admits; rather, patience and strategy are key. "It's competition within yourself," he says, "and the competition appeals to us the most."

You don't have to be French to belong to the Sarasota Club de Pétanque, although about half the members are, and newcomers are always welcome; call the Canesses at 365-5487 for details.




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