KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It’s about time.
Tyson Durfey has been to the American Royal Rodeo almost every year since he was born nearly 28 years ago. He’s been in the field of Kansas City’s rodeo virtually every season since he turned pro in 2003.
“This is the best luck I’ve ever had at the hometown rodeo,” said Durfey, a tie-down roper raised near Savannah, Mo., just 65 miles straight north of the West Bottoms. “You always put more pressure on yourself than you need to, because you see all the people you grew up with, and they expect you to do well.”
With plenty of family and friends packed into Hale Arena on Saturday night, Durfey roped and tied his calf in 7.4 seconds to take the lead in his event. Now he’ll await the results of tomorrow’s final performance to see if his time holds up for the top spot; the event kicks off at 2 p.m.
“I actually have never won a lot here, so this is going to mean a lot,” said Durfey, a five-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier who has won three Canadian Professional Rodeo Association titles.
But Durfey failed to qualify for the NFR and the Canadian finals this year; it’s the first time he hasn’t made the field in ProRodeo’s championship event in Las Vegas since 2007.
“It was a rough year, but I’m going to finish it off well,” Durfey said. “Typically in a year, a guy gets seven or eight chances to win big money. This year, I had two chances, and I didn’t capitalize on them.”
That’s part of the equation in rodeo.
“I was at one in Texas yesterday,” he said. “I’ll be at one tomorrow, then I’ve got five next week. I rodeo for a living. It’s what I do; it’s what I love, and it’s what I’m going to do whether I make the finals or not.”
Bareback rider Ryan Gray is on the outside looking in at qualifying for this year’s NFR, but he’s doing everything he can in order to change it on the final weekend of the 2012 season. Gray, a seven-time NFR qualifier from Cheney, Wash., rode Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s horse R.D. Mercer for 84 points on Saturday to own a share of the lead with Heath Ford of Slocum, Texas, who rode Friday.
“I think, mathematically, I still have a shot to make it,” said Gray, who rode in Poway, Calif., on Friday and will ride in San Bernadino, Calif., on Sunday. “I’m winning Poway right now, but I knew I needed to win about $5,000-$6,000 to get in to the finals.”
He, too, has had his share of struggles this year.
“I just didn’t bring home the big checks when I need them,” he said. “It’s just one of those years.”
But earning a nice check at a rodeo like the American Royal is a good way to wrap up a tough season.
American Royal Rodeo
Kansas City, Mo.
Leaders through Saturday
Bareback riding: 1. Heath Ford, on Brookman & Hyland Rodeo’s Smiling Bob, and Ryan Gray, on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s R.D. Mercer; 3. (tie) Jared Keylon and Clint Cannon, 82; 5. (tie) Justin McDaniel and Kyle Brennecke, 81; 7. Joe Gunderson, 79; 8. (tie) Chase Erickson and Tanner Aus, 78.
Steer wrestling: 1. Bray Armes, 3.6 seconds; 2. Riley Duvall, 4.1; 3. Jeff Miller, 4.2; 4. (tie)Brad Johnson, Justin Smith and Chance Carlson, 4.4; 7. Beau Clark, 4.7; 8. (tie) Tait Kvistad, Kody Woodward and Brent Sutton, 4.8.
Team roping: 1. Quista Lopez/Buddy Hawkins, 4.6 seconds; 2. Derrick Begay/Cesar de la Cruz, 4.8; 3. David Key/Bucky Campbell, 4.9; 4. (tie) Brant Spugin/J.W. Beck and Adam Newcomb/Chad Harper, 5.0; 6. Logan Olson/Matt Kasner, 5.2; 7. (tie) Dustin Chohon/DustinHarris and Adam Rose/Gabe Gwaltney, 5.5; 9. Chace Thompson/Chad Williams, 9.6; 10. Charly Crawford/Jim Ross Cooper, 9.9.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Brad Rudolf, 86 points on Smith Harper and Morgan’s Rattle Snake Shake; 2. Ty Atchison, 85; 3. Will Smith, 82; 4. Cody Rud, 81; 5. (tie) Louie Brunson and Chuck Schmidt, 80; 7. Jacobs Crawley, 79; 8. Logan Allen, 76.
Tie-down roping: 1. Tyson Durfey, 7.4 seconds; 2. Justin Maass, 7.6; 3. Trent Creager, 7.8; 4. Bryson Sechrist, 8.0; 5. (tie) Clint Kindred and Cody McCartney, 8.4; 7. Justin Scofield, 8.6; 8. Bradley Bynum, 8.8.
Barrel racing: 1. Kenna Squires, 14.43; 2. Trula Churchill, 14.50; 3. Brittany Pozzi, 14.56; 4. Benette Little, 14.61; 5. Angie Meadors, 14.64; 6. Shada Brazile, 14.65; 7. Robyn Herring, 14.67; 8. Natalie Foutch, 14.70; 9. Carolyn Uhler, 14.74; 10. Christina Richman, 14.75; 11. Lee Ann Rust, 14.80; 12. Aimee Kay, 14.81.
Bull riding: 1. (tie) McKennon Wimberly, on Wild Card Rodeo’s King Pen, and John Young, on Brookman & Hyland Rodeo’s Canadian Club, 88 points; 3. (tie) Tyler Stoltz and Lucas Guilbeau, 82; 5. Jessie Michael Fischer, 71; no other qualified rides.