Current National Finals Rodeo team roping aggregate record holders Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins proved once more that they’re a team to be reckoned with in any setup with a win at Robertson Hill Ranch’s Lone Star Shootout Feb. 27 in Stephenville, Texas.
Ward and Hawkins notched their first major jackpot win together as they enter the third year of their partnership, worth $130,000 for their three-steer aggregate of 15.61 seconds.
“It’s a blessing to be able to win that kind of money starting out your winter,” Ward said. “Buds lives there in Stephenville, and we won $65,750 a piece yesterday in his backyard. (Cody) Snow was saying that’s like a mini-NFR, and he’s right: it feels like we just went back to the NFR.”
Hawkins, who also won the Bob Feist Invitational back in 2014 with Drew Horner worth $162,500 and $100,000 at the Feist in 2021 with Ward, just welcomed a new baby daughter Anne with wife Tori, so the win was a perfect icing on the cake to an already outstanding month of February.
“Anne has spent more time since she’s been born at rodeos and ropings than she’s spent at home,” Hawkins laughed. “She was home for 12 hours out of the hospital, and then we were in San Antonio for 22 hours. She’s already a good traveler.”
Ward and Hawkins qualified in the last spot in their rotation Friday, but then battled back with the roping’s clean-slate, three-head setup Sunday.
“We talked about changing our plan possibly for Sunday, and we didn’t, and we got rewarded for sticking to our plan,” Hawkins said. “We considered just trying to catch, and Andrew’s exact quote was ‘If we stay aggressive, we can put some 4s on em and win the roping.'”
They came out with a bang and won the first round with a 4.64-second run, worth $1,500, and stayed aggressive in the second round to be high back. In the short round, they had a little too much time to play with.
“I was nervous,” Ward admitted. “I’m always nervous. Sometimes they’ll force you into making aggressive runs in that situation, but that day, we had to be 6.3 so my mindset is to not break the barrier. But then we draw a stronger cow, and me trying so hard to get out the barrier made me go way farther in the arena on a running cow. I reach at the cow and catch him, my horse was heading out to the left and I just open up and got the shoulders of the cow and wash it on something legal, and I hope I do better next time. We can go all over the arena and be 6.”
Ward stuck with Biscuit, the same race-bred brown gelding he won the average at the Finals on.
“That isn’t the ideal place to ride Biscuit,” Ward said. “He doesn’t get to top speed as fast as a littler, tighter horse. The way that Buds hazes the cow and keeps them to the middle of the arena allows me to be better with my rope. If the cow doesn’t come left, Biscuit doesn’t want to run right. It almost makes him look like a run off horse if Buds doesn’t manipulate the cow to me. Buds always brings them to me and will hold them straighter for me. We got by what could make you lose riding the brown. He’s a great horse. I’m very fortunate to ride him and we’re so thankful for him.”
For Hawkins, his horse, X, what the controlled variable in the tricky short round.
“He does the same things perfect, and he makes the same mistakes when he messes up,” Hawkins said. “It’s one of those deals—it starts to be redundant on these deals but that’s my horse: redundant. He’s the staple in our often chaotic environment. You watch the last run, to be frank, Andrew was a little unstable. I can say that because he’s my partner, and he brought some fear. And Biscuit is naturally open to suggestions on being late and going left. The steer was stronger than we anticipated. I don’t know if I did anything wrong, but what I’m sure of is my horse did better than I did. Once that was all in motion, there was a lot of things that weren’t really smooth. The steer wasfast, Andrew reached and got a really deep neck, but my horse was in the right spot at the right time. There’s something special about a horse on that run, being able to move forward through your delivery but also be strong on the finish.”
The Lone Star Shootout usually awards Bloomer Trailers to the winners, but with supply chain issues looming, Bloomer and Robertson Hill decided to give the winners the option of $25,000 a man cash in place of the trailers. Both Ward and Hawkins took the cash.
“To have Austin give us that opportunity, I was so grateful to do good,” Ward said. “I guess you dream of winning all these ropings, but I was going to try to make a living. It’s cool to have a major jackpot now: That’s my first ever. I’ve placed at that roping a lot and the BFI and the Gripp, but I’ve never won a major. We did yesterday, and I’ll be always looking back and remembering the first time. I’ve been roping a long time, and it’s hard to rope yourself into a situation to get to the last one and finish the roping off. It felt good. That’s an incredible feeling, to have the confidence that you put yourself in a good spot.”
Ward and Hawkins are currently 15th and 13th in the world, respectively, each with $14,339.54 won. TRJ