Roping’s consistency kings Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins were true to form February 4, 2023, stretching their final steer in 3.9 seconds in the clean-slate short round to win the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo’s $20,000 payday.
It marked the standout team’s biggest single-check in the ProRodeo regular season, giving them a cushion to start their winter on and set themselves up for a potentially easier summer haul. That works for the two family men, particularly Hawkins. Hawkins announced the coming of his second child with with Tori on the arena floor after the win, and that win could allow him more time to support her come summer.
“Today is the official announcement,” Hawkins, 36, of Stephenville, Texas, said with a big smile. “My in-laws live in Wyoming, aside from a FaceTime call with a whole group of people, it would be hard to break the news. I told my wife I’d just go ahead and win that rodeo and I’d announce it. She said, ‘I don’t know about all that…’ so we won the semifinals, I didn’t go to the interview, and I told her tonight we’d win the rodeo and I’d announce it. It’s rodeos like this that provide that opportunity. We’re able to live the family lifestyle, and I’m trying to do a good job in a season of prosperity, spending time with my wife and baby. It’s my favorite thing. Years ago I always had a dream, not of a white picket fence-, but of a rusty metal fence and a wife and two kids, and we’re getting there.”
The feel-good win at Fort Worth for three-time NFR header Ward and five-time NFR header Hawkins was not, however, without controversy. At third out, reigning and back-to-back World Champs and returning Fort Worth Champs Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira smoked a run on a good steer, but the in-arena clock kept running. In a matter of moments, the scoreboard clock zipped back to 4.5, but then announcers called out 5.5. Quickly—very quickly—Driggers and Nogueira rode back up the arena to the boxes, delaying the rodeo to argue the issue.
“I had to start blocking it out,” Ward, 32, of Edmond, Oklahoma, said. “I’ve never seen anything like that happen. It looked like they were going to be a low-4-second run, but it was in the 4s forever but then they called out 5.5, and they said, ‘We’re not taking a 5.5, there’s no way we were 5.5.’ I’m back there, and it doesn’t take me very long, a couple teams before, to know I needed to get away from this. They’re my buddies, and they made a great run. If it was us, I’m going to be super sad for us because they made a great run. I don’t think any team roper is hoping something bad happens to somebody else. It’s always like, ‘they made a great run, we want to try to beat them.’ I can’t believe there wasn’t a back-up timer. That’s nuts to me.”
Hawkins was on the steer’s head for Driggers’ and Nogueira’s first steer, so he had a unique vantage point to the situation.
“That steer fought the chute for a long time,” Hawkins explained. “I got the head for their steer last year and they were 4.2 to win the rodeo last year. The only difference I thought between their run and ours, and not that we were for sure going to beat them, that steer hung a little bit in the turn, and that makes the finish a little sloppier. I’m pretty good at playing over-under with team roping. I’ve watched a jillion runs. And so I was seeing it, with a great flag, great clock stop at 4.1, but if it took forever, I’m seeing 4.2.
“I’ve had weird stuff happen. I’m sad for them, and they come back and make a really good run on a steer they didn’t have as much info on. I don’t know the rules on that deal or how it’s supposed to be handled. I was glad they got a fair shake at it the second time. (Driggers and Nogueira were 3.9-plus-five to finish fourth, worth $4,000 a man.) At the end of the day, I know Junior will blame himself. I would have felt bad if we beat them and they were 5.5. When they got to go last out, at this rodeo, their steer didn’t look great and he didn’t look terrible, and then they get to lose on the field. That’s the way we all want it to be.” (More from Hawkins and others on this topic last this week in a story and podcast.)
Ward and Hawkins’ Fort Worth Qualifying-Round Play-By-Play
Ward and Hawkins roped their first steer at first out in the first set.
“I missed the barrier, made the run harder, and placed,” Ward said of the run they were 5.7 on to win third in the round and $880 a man.
They were second with a 6.1 in Round 2 and won $1,320 a man, advancing to the semifinals.
“That feels like a feat,” Ward said. “It can be hard just to get to the semifinals. We made a sweet run last night, and we were 4.8 in a softer bracket. It just wasn’t tough team roping. Tonight, we felt like it would be fast. We felt like it would take a 3-second run. We were in the truck driving today to a roping, and I said I think we could be 3 if we heated a runner up in the right part of the arena. It pays so much to win this rodeo, and it fell our way.”
Ward and Hawkins’ Fort Worth Final-Round Play-By-Play
Ward and Hawkins were next-to-last out in the clean-slate, final round of eight. With the timing controversy for Driggers and Nogueira, they also knew they’d have to get past a Driggers and Nogueira re-run. So luckily, their go-at-’em game plan was already safely in place.
“This is the first one of the week we’ve kind of talked about heating up,” Hawkins said of the short round. “Early in the week, the difference between first and nothing is $1,700. Last night it was $1,000 a hole, and tonight the difference between first and second is $8,000. We didn’t know what was going to happen with Kaleb and Junior, but we knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime tough breaks that went the wrong way for them. But we’re also in a spot, we’re not looking at the 4.6. We knew we have two of the best teams going, TWade and TG and Drigs and Junior right behind us. So we have to go make the best run we can make. For us, we have to go ahead and stay on it. That’s the easiest run we can make. The other runs were more difficult, just trying to catch through the program. Tonight we got to let our horses do what we do.”
“That was a sharper cut type cow,” Ward added. “The Minors were 4.8 on him. We felt like he was going to leave and push on us maybe a little bit. So Buds got up there and held him straight, maybe a step left. I tried to get as good a start as I could. And then it just seemed like he was the correct amount of rope to be sharp then Buds drilled him right off the turn. It felt like an amazing run.”
Ward and Hawkins’ names are synonymous with the names Biscuit and X, their signature mounts aboard whom they also won the 2021 NFR average, 2022 Lone Star Shootout, American Rodeo and Reno Open. Biscuit and X again did the heavy lifting in Fort Worth, and Hawkins says there’s no end in sight for their horses’ No. 1 status.
“Honestly, they’re really healthy,” Hawkins said. “It’s traditional that heel horses go a long time. X is 16 this year, and hasn’t showed any signs of slowing down. It’s easy for me to get him a little bit fat. I don’t practice on him as much as I used to, because he doesn’t need it. I have to talk myself into riding him, and honestly I have to be careful how much I ride him because I don’t want to change anything.”
Where the PRCA’s Team Roping World Standings Stand
In 2022, the PRCA faced challenges with updating standings from tournament-style rodeos. Money from these rodeos doesn’t fit any of the PRCA databases’ existing computer models to calculate standings and earnings, so this money must be entered in manually and in a less-timely manner than cowboys and reporters had grown accustom to before the emergence of these rodeo styles.
Before Fort Worth, Ward and Hawkins had $10,058.88 won a piece, putting Ward 10th in the standings and Hawkins seventh. They won $26,200 a man in Fort Worth, handily putting them first in the PRCA world standings. Without Fort Worth calculated, Driggers and Nogueira led the standings with $22,336.53 a man won. Had Driggers and Nogueira’s estimated 4.1-to-4.5-second run held—rather than the 8.9 that they settled for on their re-run that put them fourth—they’d have $8,000 more won, for a total of $16,260 a man out of Fort Worth, putting them ahead of Ward and Hawkins in the standings.
“The beautiful thing for those guys, and they’re not thinking this now: that team didn’t need to win this rodeo to make the National Finals or win the world championship,” Hawkins said. “Whether we’re ahead of them or not, they’re going to be heating them up all year. This will just be motivation for them to do better.”
Fort Worth Final Round Results:
1, Andrew Ward, Edmond, Okla., and Buddy Hawkins II, Stephenville, Texas, 3.9 seconds, $20,000 each. 2, Jake Cooper Clay, Sapulpa, Okla., and Billie Jack Saebens, Nowata, Okla., 4.6, $12,000. 3, Cody Snow, Los Olivos, Calif., and Wesley Thorp, Throckmorton, Texas, 5.4, $8,000. 4, Kaleb Driggers, Hoboken, Ga., and Junior Nogueira, Presidente Prude, Brazil, 8.9, $4,000.