It took 15 tries playing on steer roping's biggest stage, but Rocky Patterson of Pratt, Kan., was finally crowned world champion after an eventful and dramatic 2009 Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla.
But it wasn't easy. In fact, it came down to the last of the grueling 10 rounds of competition before Patterson was able to clinch his first gold buckle. Sitting second in the world standings and fifth in the NFSR average race, Patterson needed to win the final round and move up in average, based on the best cumulative time. Patterson did his part, posting an 11.3-second run.
The drama was intensified when two-time and defending champ Scott Snedecor of Uvalde, Texas, posted a 13.5, good enough for fourth in the go-round. But when Vin Fisher Jr. of Andrews, Texas, posted a conservative 16.6 and J. P. Wickett of Sallisaw, Okla., had a 15.0, Patterson moved up not one, but two spots in the average-third place in the average paid $11,322, while fourth was $7,956. The difference added up to Patterson finishing the season with $80,924, just $1,431 ahead of Snedecor.
"Scott is a great friend of mine," said Patterson, who won the average titles at the NFSR in 1999 and 2001.
Patterson's 10th-round run was his third fastest of the two-day event, but it was his only round victory. Over the pressure-packed 10 go-rounds, he won $31,283. His previous best finish was a decade ago, when the average check propelled him to second in the world standings, and that happened in the Lazy E Arena before the finale was moved to Amarillo, Texas, in 2001, then to Hobbs, N.M., before returning home to Oklahoma.
"My dad is my biggest fan, and I lost him last year," Patterson said. "Boy, am I glad to be back in a steer roping arena."
While the world title belongs to Patterson, the weekend belonged to third-generation national finalist Bryce Davis of Abilene, Texas. Davis was the only cowboy in the field to rope and tie all 10 steers, finishing in 137.9 seconds. His father, Jim, won back-to-back world titles in the mid-1980s, and his grandfather, Merle, was part of the field when the first championship was held in 1959. Bryce Davis earned his spot among the top 15 when he earned money in the Heartland Series finale in Waco, Texas, in October.
"I thought my last steer in Waco was tough until tonight," said Davis, who needed just a qualified time to clinch the average title, the second most prestigious championship in the sport. "It's surreal. It really hasn't sunk in yet."
Davis won the third go-round and placed in three others, collecting more than $31,000 for his weekend. The biggest money-earner in the field was first-time qualifier Chance Kelton of Mayer, Ariz., whose 110.3-second cumulative time on eight runs was good enough for second place in the average. Kelton won $38,928, with the lion's share coming from his nearly $15,000 average paycheck. Still, Kelton won the fifth round and placed in four others.
Nine-time PRCA World Champion Trevor Brazile of Decatur, Texas-who owns the 2006-07 Steer Roping gold buckles-won $26,512 in Guthrie and finished fourth in the world standings.