MULVANE, Kan. – The race for the 2015 Don Gay Bull Riding Tour championship will come down to the final weekend of the season.
The tour’s finale will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27, at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane.
“We’ve had a phenomenal race for the title,” said Randy Schmutz, general manager of United Bucking Bulls Inc., which is tied into the Don Gay Tour. “It’s been an exciting season, and it’s going to come down to the final three days to decide our champion.”
The tour features a 19-event regular season, and only the top 50 cowboys on the money list advance to the finals, where they will be matched with some of the top bulls in the industry. It makes for a wild three-day ride inside the Kansas Star Arena.
“We’ve got 17-year-old Koal Livingston leading the standings,” Schmutz said, referring to the cowboy from the north Texas community of Burleson. “Also in the race is our well-known veteran, Ronny Kitchens, who was our first finals champion and won the 2013 year-end title. He was the recipient of the first Don Gay Tour pickup.”
Kitchens, a 39-year-old bull rider that has been part of the game for the last two decades, sits second in the standings. He will head into the finale with a lot of momentum but will be in the mix for the title with Jory Markiss and Michael Earl. All four cowboys are within range to make a move on Livingston.
Events that are part of the Don Gay Tour also feature competitions for the bulls that are in the mix. Like the cowboys that ride for the money available, bull owners enlist their bulls in the contest with hopes of cashing in. Owners of the bull with the top score will win the lion’s share of the prize money.
“Our tour is different in that we have a Rank Rider Score System, wherein every rider receives a Rank Rider score regardless of an 8-second qualified ride based on the judges’ evaluation of the bull and the riding time by the cowboy,” Schmutz said. “The bonus is if they ride for eight seconds, they receive a Rank Rider score based on the same premise, then they get a traditional ride score and are eligible for two paychecks.
“This system is not to reward an unqualified ride, but it doubles the reward for those guys that do ride for a qualified ride. Our events are about the rankest bulls in the world and the guys that try their hearts out trying to ride them.”
It all adds to the mix for the final weekend of September. This marks the third straight year the Kansas Star Arena has hosted the Don Gay Tour finale.
“The arena and the amenities all being in one place is such a tremendous experience for all of our bull riders and our bull owners,” Schmutz said. “We’ve had a wonderful relationship with the staff and management there, and it’s been a phenomenal event each year.”