By BURT ANGELI
IRON MOUNTAIN - Da Vinci Bocce of Sylvan Lake brought the bocce state championship traveling trophy to City Park on Saturday.
Joe Fittante of Iron River fires a shot in the 15th annual Michigan Open state tournament Saturday at City Park’s Ray Mariucci Bocce Complex. Fittante and Bimbo’s Wine Press bowed in the finals to Da Vinci Bocce.
They took it home, too.
Da Vinci rolled unbeaten to capture the 15th annual Michigan Open state championship at the Ray Mariucci Bocce Complex. Bimbo's Wine Press bowed in the final match 15-1.
United States Bocce Federation describes the game as a "competitive and precision sport aimed at rolling or throwing balls down a long, rectangular court with the goal of trying to rest your ball(s) closer to the target ball (pallino) than your opponent's ball."
Da Vinci did all of that from nine in the morning until nearly nine that night.
"The most important thing is the first man that goes," said DaVinci's Mike Grasser, referring to Jim Landolph. "He played very, very good all day.
"That gives you the edge if he has a ball that's anywhere close for a point especially in front of the pallino."
Co-tournament director John Gaudette predicted Sylvan Lake's Grasser would put on a clinic in the tournament. Grasser and Quirino Mastroianni of Dearborn both own several state titles along with international experience. Lead-off Landolph took his first state trophy.
After completing pool play, eight teams advanced to the single elimination finals.
In the quarterfinals, Da Vinci downed Kuhn's Construction 12-4; Dude's Delivery dropped Kalamazoo Bocce Club 12-1; Bimbo's upended Papa Lou's 12-0, and Woodlands Motel outlasted Erickson, Nash & Rochon Funeral Home 12-9.
The semifinals had Da Vinci rally from a 5-0 deficit to clip Dude's 12-7 and Bimbo's recover from an 8-2 hole to oust Woodlands 12-10.
Bimbo's - with Joe Fittante, Jim Javoroski and Eugene (Mo) Mottes of Iron River - saw Da Vinci strike for six points on its first attempt and that set the tone.
Woodlands (Beverly, John and Jacob Gaudette, Jim Pericolosi) bested Dude's (Mike Constantini, Jim Snowdon, Gary Mainville) for third place.
The day started off with a surprising six-point frame by Woodlands Motel over the eventual champion. The eight points scored against Da Vinci in that first game was the most they gave up all day.
CCI Systems (Ed Pilot, Dick Rahoi, Pat Verrette) was the consolation champion.
With Grasser and Sylvan Lake unable to hold this year's state tournament, Dickinson Area Bocce Association jumped at the chance to host the tournament in memory of Ray Mariucci.
Mariucci, who died earlier this year, founded the local bocce group and built the courts at City Park.
"They did very, very good," said Grasser in applauding co-directors Mike Constantini and Gaudette along with the many DABA volunteers. "I think they did, maybe, better than us.
"I'm just sorry they didn't get a chance to host when Ray was still with us."
Tournament volunteers, who started arriving at 7 a.m., spent nearly 12 hours at the courts.
"DABA accomplished what it set out to do," Gaudette said. "We wanted to host a state bocce tournament that Ray Mariucci would be proud of.
"A small core of very dedicated people and a large group of volunteers helped to build on the foundation that Ray Mariucci built and nurtured through people like Dave Antonetti (DABA's longest serving president)."
Well over 100 spectators saw portions of the tournament. DABA's seven courts makes it one of the largest outdoor bocce venues in the nation.
"Out of town competitors and spectators fell in love with the beautiful setting," Gaudette said. "Maybe the state tournament will start rotating around the state.
"Visiting competitors agreed the community and sponsor support was unheard of in bocce tournaments."