LAS VEGAS - For the first time in more than 30 years, the world's largest participatory sporting event for women is underway in Las Vegas, and the 2016 United States Bowling Congress Women's Championships kicked off Saturday in grand fashion.
This year's USBC Women's Championships is the first major USBC tournament to be held in the new $35-million South Point Bowling Plaza, and it marks the first of four scheduled visits over the next decade.
The first group of four-player teams at the 97th edition of the Women's Championships celebrated in style with a ribbon-cutting, traditional Mass Ball Shot Ceremony, encouraging words from local and bowling dignitaries and a performance by the cast of Girls Night Out The Musical, being performed this weekend at the South Point Showroom.
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Vice President of International Marketing Michael Goldsmith, USBC Vice President Cathy DeSocio, Clark County Commissioner Susan Brager, Las Vegas Events President Pat Christenson, South Point General Manager Ryan Growney and USBC Executive Director Chad Murphy cut the ribbon to open the tournament, while four special guests were on-hand to throw out the official first balls of the event.
This year's Bowl for the Cure ® Fabulous Four essay contest winners completed a special journey together and rolled out the ceremonial first balls before competing as a team on the opening squad.
During the event's 94-day run from Saturday until July 11, more than 25,000 bowlers will hit the lanes at the 60-lane venue to compete for a prize fund expected to be in the millions.
The Women's Championships previously was held in Las Vegas in 1973 and 1983, when it was contested at the famous Showboat Lanes.
On the lanes Saturday, 2010 Ruby Doubles champion Shawna Treat of Gilbert, Arizona, got to experience a different end of the Women's Championships spectrum as a participant on the first squad of the tournament.
In 2010, Treat and her mother-in-law Joyce Treat of Queen Creek, Arizona, claimed the doubles crown on the final squad of the 100-day tournament, while Joyce also took home the Sapphire All-Events title.
"Bowling on the last squad was a lot of fun, and this was, too, but it was completely different," said Treat, who made her 13th tournament appearance. "We enjoyed being here to see the opening ceremony and bowl on the first squad, especially since it's the first time here. On one hand, it was nice to bowl at the end and know what we needed, but now we're able to post the scores for our friends and everyone to shoot at. We're planning to bowl a little bit later next year, but this was a great experience."
All bowlers will return to the lanes at South Point Bowling Plaza on Sunday morning for doubles and singles.
Joining the Women's Championships at South Point this year will be the second edition of the USBC Mixed, which features four-player mixed teams (two men and two women), mixed doubles (one man and one woman) and open singles competition.
The Mixed formally will get underway with its first team squad Sunday, and competition will continue until July 10.
The Mixed features a divisional structure that mimics the Women's Championships - four divisions for team and six for doubles and singles - so it is inviting for bowlers of all skill levels and could serve as a good steppingstone to bigger events, like the Women's Championships and USBC Open Championships.
For more information on the Women's Championships, visit BOWL.com/WomensChamp.
For more information on the USBC Mixed, visit BOWL.com/Mixed.
Visit us on Facebook at the official USBC Open/Women's Championships page.