Petanque Player Competes in World Championships in China

At our upcoming restaurant, RendezVous in Haw Creek, we will include petanque courts. Petanque is a popular game originated in France and a passion of Michel. Our friend Shirley Jones will be competing in the Petanque World Championship in Kaihua, China. The following is an article from The Dispatch by Ben Coley with the photo by Regina Tapler for The Dispatch.

Local resident Shirley Jones plays on national petanque team

If asked about a favorite sport, most would answer with football, basketball, baseball or soccer.

But not Lexington resident Shirley Jones. She prefers to be on the petanque court.

In petanque, a person stands inside a circle, and the object is to toss a steel ball as close as possible to a smaller, wooden ball called a cochonnet, or jack. The game can be played one versus one, two versus two, three versus three or two versus three.

Jones said the game includes characteristics of curling, horseshoes and shuffleboard.

She had never heard of the sport until 2004 when she and her husband were camping in Florida.

“Some people walked through the campground and said, we need one couple to come and make out the number we need for our petanque tournament,” Jones said. “And we said, no, we’re just here to relax, hitting the summer sunshine and read our books.”

However, Jones recalled, that the group asked twice more. So they decided to play, and were instantly hooked.

Jones returned to North Carolina and began spreading the word about petanque. By November 2007, she helped create Carolina Petanque, which became one of more than 50 official petanque clubs under the Federation of Petanque USA.

“I think the very first thing that attracted me was that it was a sport that I felt like was equally able to be played by men and women,” Jones said. “My husband and I compete in tennis and he beats me, we compete in chess and he beats me, but petanque, I’m able to hold my own against him. It’s also easy to play and maybe hard to master.”

Jones spent the past 10 years mastering it. And next week, she will compete in the Petanque World Championships in Kaihua, China, as part of the United States triples team.

Jones expects approximately 40 countries to be represented in China. The event is sponsored by the Federation Internationale de Petanque et Jeu Provencal, the global petanque organization.

″(The United States) is a baby in the world of petanque,” Jones said. “If we can play, and if we can get in the quarterfinals, that would be wonderful. So many other countries it starts like when kids are 6 or 8 years old. Other countries might be able to get better players from a larger pool. Here, it’s still in its infancy stages.”

Jones, along with partners Gina DeJoy and Shannon Hodge, qualified by winning a tournament in Maine last year. Tish Harris will serve as an alternate.

Petanque includes separate roles called a pointer and shooter. A pointer’s role is to toss a ball as close to the jack as possible. A shooter’s role is to knock away an opponent’s ball. In triples competition, a middle person is used as a hybrid between pointing and shooting.

Jones said that in highly skilled games, if players don’t like the game’s flow, they will attempt to knock the jack out of bounds so the round stops and everyone restarts.

She noted that officials are discussing whether to have petanque at the 2024 Summer Olympics.

“I may be too old to be the first Olympian woman, but if I’m still up and moving around, I’ll at least put my name in the pot,” Jones said.

Jones refers to petanque as a “cradle to the grave,” type of game, meaning any age can play. She said she used to play with a skilled 92-year-old woman.

Jones and others have worked to put local petanque chapters in Winston-Salem, Morganton, Charlotte, Greensboro and Asheville. She still hopes to establish a public place in Lexington so that she can teach the sport.

Additionally, local petanque enthusiasts are attempting to get the sport in Winston-Salem’s Senior Games and host regional and national tournaments.

Jones said she’s gained almost 500 friends because of petanque. Even more importantly, it’s a sport that’s helped Jones and her husband keep a healthy lifestyle.

“Rather than sit in the shade and play dominoes, backgammon or cards, we got involved in petanque,” Jones said. “It has kept us up and moving.”

Ben Coley can be reached at (336) 249-3981, ext. 227 or at Follow Ben on Twitter: @LexDispatchBC