Special Olympics helps usher in 2017 Open Championships February 16, 2017 By Matt Cannizzaro and Brian HirschUSBC Communications LAS VEGAS - Special Olympics National Unified Tournament participant Matthew Kinney planned to make the most of his trip to the Entertainment Capital of World by enjoying some of the city's thrill rides once bowling at the South Point Bowling Plaza was done for the day.However, one of the biggest thrills of his week came on the lanes when he randomly was selected to throw out the first ball of the 2017 National Unified Tournament.A 104-average bowler from North Carolina, Kinney made his second consecutive appearance at the National Unified Tournament. His debut came last year at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, Nevada, where he finished third in doubles with his mother, Catherine Kinney.Matthew Kinney said getting the chance to bowl on bowling's biggest stage and have the honor of throwing out the first ball was awesome, and he loved the larger bowlers' area at the Bowling Plaza.Off the lanes, Kinney was able to enjoy some of the great sights in Las Vegas, including the Fountains at the Bellagio. He also had plans to ride the roller coaster at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino and to experience the SlotZilla zip line in downtown Las Vegas. Steven Boysza, a left-hander from Pennsylvania who averages 141, put together 10 strikes en route to a 289 game, the highest game in tournament history. A 6 pin on his 11th offering ended the string. His previous high was 226.Boysza, who made his third appearance at the Special Olympics National Unified Tournament, has seen a lot of success in his short career, with two team titles, a runner-up team finish and two second-place finishes in doubles. Boysza also made the most of his first trip to Las Vegas, taking in many of the glittery sights and attending the live taping of a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Monday Night Raw event at the new T-Mobile Arena.This week's National Unified Tournament marked the 27th consecutive year the United States Bowling Congress played host to the event. The relationship began in Toledo, Ohio, in 1991. This two-day 2017 edition took place Wednesday and Thursday at the South Point Bowling Plaza. Special Olympic athletes bowled for ribbons and gold, silver and bronze medals. Nearly 460 bowlers (116 four-player teams) representing 13 states competed in team and doubles competition, while helping to usher in the 2017 USBC Open Championships, which begins Saturday.Each team at the National Unified Tournament was comprised of two Special Olympians and their unified partners, and the combination helps carry the message of friendship and camaraderie from year to year.To be eligible for the Special Olympics National Unified Tournament, competitors must be USBC members, have a certified average of 15 or more games and have competed in their local Special Olympics events.Although bowling is not included in the traditional Olympic Games, it is among the most popular sports in Special Olympics. It is particularly beneficial to people with intellectual disabilities, regardless of age or athletic ability, since it ensures physical exercise, participation and social integration.Next, the South Point Bowling Plaza will be home to the 149-day Open Championships, which will feature more than 10,000 five-player teams (more than 50,000 bowlers) from Feb. 18 until July 16.Visit us on Facebook at the official USBC Open Championships Facebook page.