Tyler Worley was 34th in the PRCA world standings heading into the short round of the 2018 Pendleton (Oregon) Round-Up, and he and gold-buckle partner Chad Masters hadn't won any of the go-round money on the grass that week, either. But when Worley popped off on the first hop on a great steer on short-round Saturday, he and Masters' 5.0-second run put Worley in a fight-to-the-finish he wasn't expecting.
Worley, who roped with Tate Kirchenschlager this winter and spring, first-time WNFR qualifier Bubba Buckaloo this summer, soon-to-be eight-time WNFR header Derrick Begay at the Colorado State Fair and Rodeo in Pueblo, and now Masters at Pendleton, didn't think he had a shot at making the Finals after a less-than-stellar showing in Puyallup, Washington, at the Justin Boots Wrangler Tour Finale.
But now, with the final push gaining importance after roping three steers in 18.1 seconds to win $8,372 with Masters (who is already safely in the top 15 at sixth with $85,352.95), Worley's chance at a qualification for his first WNFR is a mathematical possibility.
Worley has six rodeos left: Amarillo, Texas, with Derrick Begay, Pasadena and Texarkana, Texas, with Tanner Green, and Stephenville, New Braunfels, and Apache with Garrett Chick. We caught up with him as he headed back to Arkansas with his wife Brittany to help finish up a move to Texas before the biggest six rodeos of his career kick off, brought to you by CSI Pads.
TRJ: You've had a whole lot of partners this year. What happened to cause all of the switching?
TW: I roped with Tate Kirchenschlager this winter and through California. I roped really bad for him. He's one of my best friends, so I told him I'd rather be friends than partners. Then Bubba and I started right before Reno. We did pretty good. In August I flew to Pueblo to rope with Begay because Bubba and (Cory) Petska got into San Juan Capistrano, California. Bubba was already in and didn’t want to go to Pendleton. I knew I had to find a partner, and Joseph (Harrison) didn’t want to go, so me and Chad entered there. I’ll have Tate, Bubba, Begay, Chad, Garrett and Tanner—so that’s six this year. It makes it interesting.
TRJ: How have you done at Pendleton in the past?
TW: The first time I went was last year. I lost a leg on the first one. I had him heeled, but my dun horse couldn’t hardly get stopped—he was everywhere. I decided that was his last trip. I got a new horse that had been ranched on. He came from Jace Crabb, the horse he rides at the Timed Event (to help Paul David and Jess Tierney each win Cinch TEC titles). He rode him at Pendleton before without ice nails. I did put ice nails in—it’s just sketchy enough. There’s nothing like going full-contact on a football field. That horse's name is Brazos—he’s 16.
TRJ: Have you and Chad roped together much?
TW: Chad and I were third partners in California. We didn’t do any good at all there. We decided the first check we won together, I got to cut Chad’s hair. And we tried so hard because I was going to give him the worst hair cut you’ve ever seen—there was too much at stake I guess. Otherwise we've roped a little at jackpots and stuff.
TRJ: Chad rode his reigning AQHA/PRCA Head Horse of the Year there. How much of a difference did that make?
TW: I just think it was cool he rode his best horse in that situation. You’d want your best horse there I think. A lot of horses give up on the grass—but Clint was awesome.
TRJ: Tell me about your week in Pendleton. Your names didn't really pop up on any leaderboards until the rodeo was all said and done.
TW: We didn’t win any money in the rounds. Our first steer was middle of the herd, a red steer. Everyone always tells me not to let them go right there. I went with the cow and tried to line him out and slow him down a little bit. Chad ran all the way to him, and I made sure I caught him. We came back on the steer Kyle Lockett was 6.0 on in the second round. He stepped left pretty good for them, so I told Chad I wasn’t hazing him at all. He was a little stronger. He didn’t see me. Chad ran all the way to him, and I just roped him, maybe on the second jump.
We had a steer that was really good in the short round. Jordan Ketscher was 6.1 on him in the second round, and he made a really good run. But he was really really good for us. I did the same thing—I tried not to haze and just follow the cow, when the head rope went on he slowed down, and Chad made him really, really easy to heel. I couldn’t not heel. It didn’t feel like I threw fast, but when I watched the video back, I probably shouldn’t have tried him there but I did.
TRJ: Where does the Pendleton Round-Up fall on your bucket list?
TW: I’m for sure going to wear the buckle! Second at the BFI was the most money I ever won, but this wasn’t even about the money. I’ve always wanted to win that rodeo. It’s a little risky. You’re either going to wipe out or it’s going to be good. Any time you chicken out there, it will go bad. It feels more tricky than anywhere else. I roped at pasture ropings my whole life, and I always rope a leg there. I finally did good on the grass.
TRJ: Your father-in-law is ProRodeo Hall-of-Famer Bobby Hurley. Has he ever won Pendleton?
TW: If he hasn’t, I’m going to for sure wear my buckle around him—he’s won about all of them though. (Editor's note: Bobby said he has not won Pendleton.)
TRJ: The ProRodeo standings aren't quite updated yet, but you think you have enough won to give yourself a fighting chance?
TW: I think I've got about $50,000 won. I don't usually sit down and do the math like that, but I did last night. After Puyallup, where I roped with Bubba—he told me if we did good there, we’d enter Kansas City. But we didn’t think that I had much of a chance. But now I wish I was entered more. Oh well, if we can make it, great. If not, try again next year.
TRJ: Either way, it's got to feel good to be a part of Bubba making his first WNFR after all the years he's tried, right?
TW: It does feel good. It's been cool roping with all those different guys, and except for the young guys, I've helped get my partners to the Finals. (Begay, Masters, and Buckaloo)
TRJ: Ok, easy question to finish up. What gear were you using, top to bottom, to win Pendleton?
TW: I had a CSI Pad, a Jason Senior Saddle, all Classic Equine Boots, a bit from Rocky Staples—I had a bit I got from a buddy at home, but I traded Luke Brown for this one. My wife thinks it’s the coolest bit ever. I’ve been using it on that horse and he really likes it. I use a Classic Poweline Lite HM. I used an old one— I don’t know how long I’ve had it. I keep all my ropes in my living quarters. I had it laying on the couch for a long time. I didn’t want to use a new one out there. It was a touch lighter and little more fuzzy. It was more worn than what I usually would use. I’m really picky about how my rope feels, and it felt really good, and it was a touch softer. I didn’t want something really stiff and bouncy on the grass. I didn’t want it to run at all. I wanted to use one that had no bounce at all. I’m really self conscious about a rope with kick to it. I’m always afraid if it has any kick I’ll set it high on the right. I used that one all three rounds. Toward the end it was starting to turn the wrong way. But I wasn’t risking it, it had been working so I was sticking with it.
TRJ: Thank you Tyler, and best of luck in these last two weeks!