Photos by Performance Clix
Header Craig Schlueter had only entered the Perfect 10 once before—last year. It was a bust. When he decided to enter again he recalled an old friend and dialed him up.
“I’ve known Doug for years. When I first started roping, back in ’97 or ’98, I roped with him at the old Buckeye Sports Arena but we never roped together again until we went to the Perfect 10,” Schlueter explained. “We didn’t practice together, nothing. We just went up there and roped four steers.”
When he first called the semi-retired veterinarian, Doug Funk, he thought he’d hit a dead end. The answer came back, “You should have called me 20 minutes ago!” Moments later Funk realized the roping was enter three times and picked the phone back up. The duo had their golden ticket and would soon find themselves $70,000 the richer having roped four steers in 34.58 seconds on a sunny Las Vegas day.
Schlueter, Buckeye, Ariz., grew up in the Midwest and a lifetime of construction work took him to Arizona in 1993, where he first worked on a new Intel facility. He eventually got out of construction when he had an opportunity to become majority owner of The Pump Company, a maintenance water well repair company where he still works. In 1994, he met his wife, Valery Stevens, who introduced him to horses.
“Prior to that I was kind of a softball junkie. But I gave that up and jumped into team roping with both feet,” Schlueter recalled. “I bought my first horse in ’96 and started roping sometime in ’97.
“Before I even knew anything about the timed events I always liked the roughstock rodeo events. Once I started roping it was like, wow, this is a completely different sport,” he said. “I got more interested in the calf roping, the bulldogging and, of course, the team roping. I just got more competitive and more competitive and started going to a lot of the US Ropings out here.
“This is definitely the biggest win I’ve ever had,” Schlueter said. “Doug and I didn’t really talk about it, but I had a game plan. Just rope three steers and get to the short round. And whatever happens there happens. We were second high call and the high team header lost his dally. Doug hadn’t even gotten out of the arena yet.”
With all the congratulations and high fives being thrown his way, the nerves didn’t hit until he got back to his trailer and tried to call his wife.
“I was perfectly OK until I got back to my trailer and I thought I was going to fall over,” Schlueter laughed. “I got off my horse and my knees were shaking so bad I had to sit down.”
He tried to call Valery who had already assumed he hadn’t done any good, since she hadn’t heard from him and it was well past 6 p.m. When she called him back late in the evening she asked him nonchalantly, “So, how’d you do?”
“‘Well I won it,’ I told her,” Schlueter laughed. “We always talk about the BFI and the George Strait and that’s the caliber of roping this is, at our level. It’s your name, you’re the champion for a whole year and it’s just a really good feeling.”
It’s called the Perfect 10 and according to heeler Doug Funk, the event held up to its namesake.
“It did work out just perfect for us. That’s the neat thing about it,” he said. “It was four really nice steers, just four clean runs for Craig and I. I can’t compliment Craig enough on the steers he turned for me.”
After graduating from Kansas State University, Funk spent 36 and a half years practicing veterinary medicine in Wenatchee, Wash.
“It was a great place to raise a family, we had a lot of friends and so on. After I sold my half of the practice, there wasn’t much more to do every day so we decided to relocate and bought a place in Hermiston, Ore., about two years ago. We’re more centrally located to the kids and grandkids now.”
But when we caught up with Funk to talk about his perfect day at the Perfect 10, he was just pulling out of town—leaving his winter home in Phoenix, Ariz.
“We used to just be snowbirds and stay down for a couple months each winter. Now we can stay down there for six months, really wait until it warms up at home.”
While Funk sold out of his former DVM practice, he hasn’t given up his life’s true passion just yet.
“I like to say I’m semi-retired. I still have to report to work every morning at 8 a.m. I do a lot of dentistry and a lot of lameness and joint injections in Arizona and in Washington and Oregon, too. I work on a few roping steers, but that’s about it. It’s kind of just work when I want, for who I want and it’s a pretty good deal.”
Doug and his wife of 47 years, Martha, have one son, two-time WNFR qualifier Matt Funk, and two daughters, Missy Downs (who used to rope) and Melinda McDaniel (a #6 header), and are the proud grandparents of six—three boys and three girls, who range from 2 to 12.
Funk himself started turning steers at 12 years old.
“I was a header for a long time until the mid ’80s and then I switched to heeling. I guess I got a little bored with heading. My horses ducked out so bad that I couldn’t find heelers, so I switched.”
This was his first trip to the Perfect 10, but not his first big World Series win. This past December he finished fourth in the #9 Cactus Ropes Finale IX to take home $110,000 with partner Bob Scott.
“This was a pretty close second though,” he said. “Winning that kind of money, that’s special and it’s something you’ll never forget. It’s something no one can ever take away from you.”
It wasn’t until a few weeks later that Schlueter and Funk got their wives rounded up to celebrate the “Perfect” win.
“We went to a nice steakhouse, I got to meet his wife, he got to meet my wife,” Funk said. “It’s a friendship that’s probably going to continue from here on out. I’m sure we’ll rope together some more.”
“This is what you always want,” Funk finished. “With 300 teams it’s going to work that way for somebody, but it’s kind of a crapshoot. You never know when it’s going to be you, and it just happened to work out great for us this year.”
Las Vegas, NV
TOTAL PAYOUT: $200,000
Produced by: Diamond E Productions
Date: March 28, 2015
1. Craig Schlueter / Doug Funk / 34.58 on four / $70,000
2. Tami Blasingame / Steve Medlin / 38.93 / $35,000
3. Clint Ryan / Theron Hinricksen / 39.07 / $25,000
4. Jamie Payton / Clay Tyree / 43.91 / $17,000
5. Jake Bahem / Tyler Bell / 44.75 / $12,000
6. Troy L. Peek / Gary Gist / 44.89 / $8,000
7. Doug Sorenson / Clay Tyree / 45.31 / $6,000
8. Corkey Rasco / Derrick Myers / 46.08 / $5,000