A whole new ball game

Jefry "Jef" Bohn talks about experience competing in third annual P├ętanque America Open Tournament

January 26, 2012|By JANET HEIM |
  • Jefry "Jef" Bohn is shown with a picture of boules (metal balls) that are used to play Petanque.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

The recently published and first comprehensive English language book on Pétanque bills it as the greatest game you never heard of.

Jefry “Jef” Bohn, a local certified public accountant, discovered the sport — pronounced “pay-tonk” — while at his second home in Amelia Island, Fla.

He recently competed in the third annual Pétanque America Open Tournament there on Nov. 12-13, 2011, and made it to the quarterfinals.

Bohn, 55, is a partner in Smith Elliott Kearns & Co. in Hagerstown, where he has worked since 1978. 

“I never heard of this game until 2010. I wandered downtown (Fernandina Beach) and wondered, ‘What the heck is this game?’” Bohn said.

The closest Pétanque club locally is in Pentagon City, Va., near Washington, D.C., Bohn said.

A fellow Florida Rotarian, Mary Anne Waikart, who lives half of the year in Garrett County, Md., fell in love with the sport and has since built a court at her Deep Creek residence.


Pétanque, a French version of the Italian bowling game, is a cross between bocce and horseshoes, Bohn said.

Bohn, who grew up in Waynesboro, Pa. and graduated from Waynesboro Area Senior High School in 1974, said he had played bocce in the back yard while growing up.

In pétanque, two-person teams compete against each other. They throw palm-sized metal balls, called boules, as close as possible to a small wooden ball, known as the “pig,” while standing inside a starting circle with both feet on the ground.

The goal is to keep throwing until one team gets close enough to knock the other team out.

In the November competition, Bohn was one of more than 260 competitors from Canada, Europe and 23 states in the United States.

A French couple, who were former European champions, won the tournament.

“We did pretty well for the level of competition,” Bohn said.

Bohn travels to Amelia Island, which is near the Florida-Georgia border, about once a month on weekends from May to December. He had been looking for a second home and fell in love with the island after attending the Maryland Association of CPAs Conference there in 2003.

He’s been traveling there since 2005 and settled on his home in 2007. When Bohn’s there, he participates with the Amelia Island Boules Club, with games played on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

The club has 60 members, but Bohn said he doesn’t have a regular partner.

“That’s how I really got to know people on the island. It’s both a competitive game and a social game,” Bohn said.

Many of the residents are not natives, and they are looking for social interaction, which playing boules offers, he said. It doesn’t require any athletic ability or physical attributes, and the game can be enjoyed by people of all different skill levels.

“It’s a game anybody could play — all ages, races, creeds. There’s an unpredictability about it which kind of makes it fun,” Bohn said.

But in serious competitions like the November tournament, it’s a different story.

“The cream rises to the top. The two teams that won definitely were the best teams there,” Bohn said.

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