LAS VEGAS – Tyson Durfey admits he’s having the best season of his career.
There’s no reason for that to change now – especially now, as he prepares for ProRodeo’s grand finale, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, set for Dec. 2-11 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. It’s the fourth straight year the Savannah, Mo.-born cowboy has qualified for the NFR as one of the top 15 tie down ropers in the world standings at the conclusion of the regular season.
“Every year just seems to get a little better,” said Durfey, 27, of Colbert, Wash. “Through the regular season, I won a lot at the bigger rodeos. I won three tour rodeos, Logandale (Nev.), Red Bluff (Calif.) and St. Paul (Ore.), then I hade some other pretty big ones.”
Durfey speaks of the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour, a select number of elite events that, while still part of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, count toward the tour standings and a two-event playoff. Through the season, which concluded the end of September, Durfey earned $89,174, which puts him in seventh in the world standings heading into the finale.
“I feel like it’s my job to get there,” he said. “It’s an expectation I have for myself, and it’s one of my goals – actually, my goal isn’t just to make the finals but to win the world, and I know I have to make the finals to win the world. It’s about staying focused on task.”
The NFR is where the big money is paid, and it’s where the top cowboys fight to make a profit through the rugged rodeo trail – while Durfey’s annual earnings would mark a nice salary for most, he doesn’t turn in an expense report to the corporate office; oftentimes, cowboys and cowgirls break even with their expenses and their winnings, so those who make the NFR consider it a time to make some money.
And why not? Go-round winners will earn a $17,512 paycheck each of the 10 nights of the NFR. Even sitting No. 7 on the tie down roping money list, he trails leader Trevor Brazile by $53,500. But he can make up most of that ground in three nights.
“I prefer to see it as a fourth place in a go-round and the average win,” Durfey said of the 10-round cumulative, where the fastest combined time wins $44,910. “That’s the way I try to look at it, because the most consistent guy over the 10 rounds is going to win a lot of money.
“I just want to rope sharp every time and let the cards lay where they will. If it’s meant to be, then it will; if not, then it’s next year. I’ve got to do everything I can to be prepared.”
The son of a tie down roper who trains ropers and calf roping horses, Durfey understands preparation – from the high-level practices to focusing on techniques to riding great horses; the latter being 13-year-old Bailey, the mount he’s had for almost three years.
“This is definitely his best year also,” said Durfey, a two-time Canadian tie down roping champion. “He really got solid and started working the same every time this year. All horses take time to form into what they’re going to be. Most good horses don’t get good until they’re 13, 14 or 15.
“This year he’s really come around a lot. He’s not near as nervous about things. He’s really shaped up.”
That’s just one of the keys to Durfey’s success. But there are plenty, like his striving to improve, even though he’s been considered one of the elite tie down ropers for several years. There are so many variables in roping calves that Durfey does what he can to stay on his game.
“The best part of the NFR is the people, the energy,” he said. “It has energy like no other rodeo I’ve ever seen. It’s almost crazy, the amount of people that show up there. You can’t help but get excited when you get there.”