I knew Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins were a new team in 2020. What I didn’t know was that they are brothers-in-law who married sisters in 2019.
Ward and Hawkins married Hayli and Tori Bonham—who are the daughters of Laramie, Wyoming’s Jennifer and Peavy Bonham—on April 5 and November 27, 2019, respectively.
Ward, who primarily roped with brother Reagan until this change-up, and Hawkins joined forces as a team “about the time the new rodeo season rolled over last October.”
“Andrew and I have been best buds for years, and have roped together at jackpots for about 10 years now,” said Columbus, Kansas native Hawkins, who heeled at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2013 (Drew Horner headed for him) and 2018 (Lane Ivy). “I started 2019 with Lane, then roped with Tate Kirchenschlager last summer. Tate and I won enough to get me into the buildings this year, and of course he made the Finals. But we talked, and both agreed we weren’t winning as much as we should.
“It wasn’t a weird breakup for any of us. We all knew we needed to win or remix. Andrew and I started roping together at the rodeo in Hempstead, Texas, in early October.”
Andrew and Hayli are on coronavirus lockdown at home in Edmond, Oklahoma. Buddy and Tori—who consider Stephenville, Texas, home—are spending this time at Brandon Webb’s ranch in Big Wells, Texas.
[Read: Buddy Hawkins: Lessons Learned]
“Brandon’s is where I winter now, and this winter has been extended into the spring,” Buddy said. “I help out here on the ranch, and we rope. One of the silver linings I see to all the twists this year is that I’ve been able to make more progress with my young horses than I have in years. This year is shaping up to be a good one for young horses. They’re getting more riding and also more breaks and rest. I’ve backed a couple horses off a notch, because we don’t have to be in as big a hurry and I can.
“I’ve been embracing this season. With all of us home working on our horses and ourselves, I expect this to be the toughest summer of rodeos ever. Everybody will be ready.”
Buddy ropes all day every day right now with Webb. Hawkins and Ward are new partners, but they mastered long-distance communication a long time ago.
“It’s never a 10-minute conversation with Andrew and me,” Buddy said. “We talk for an hour—or three—every time we get on the phone. I’ve had enough partners that I’ve learned that the first thing is the roping, but the next thing is being on the same page with what you want to accomplish. Things like where that guy wants to go and how he wants to enter are important.
“Different people and partners have different perspectives. Andrew and I knew before we started roping together that we both like to go to most of the ropings. I’ll bet we’ve been to nine rodeos since the season started last October, and about 40 jackpots.”
Hawkins is optimistically hoping to get back to work the middle of May.
“Once it gets hot everywhere, we might at least get to circuit rodeo,” he said. “When people get more comfortable with the containment of the coronavirus is when we’ll be back at it. I hope to get to a rodeo in May, even if it’s an amateur rodeo. It would be sad if we ran out of weeks to get where we want to go. But that’s all beyond our control.”
Hawkins actually knew Ward’s wife, Hayli, before his own.
“Hayli used to drive for Luke Brown,” Buddy said. “I knew her for years, but I didn’t know anything about her family—or that she even had a sister. When I started roping with Andrew last fall, he’d occasionally mention Hayli’s sister. Tori and I knew a lot of the same people, but our paths had never crossed. I roped at the first American in 2014, and Tori helped with the church service. But I didn’t go. Tori was at (the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in) Kissimmee, Florida, in 2017 when I won it with Jesse Stipes. But we didn’t cross paths there, either.
“I didn’t know Tori existed until last fall, when Andrew talked about going to Laramie to hang out with his in-laws. Tori and I Facebook-friended each other about that time, and she posted something about standing in line at Starbucks, the guy asking her name, her replying Tori and him putting Atori on her cup after thinking she was a foreigner. I still call her Atori.
“I feel like I have the easiest name in the world to get right, but they still find a way to get it wrong on my Starbucks cup. It’s been everything from Buddy the Elf to Budy, Buddi and every other possible thing you can think of but plain old Buddy. Anyway, Tori and I kind of connected over coffee via Facebook, but we never actually got together until the USTRC Finals in Oklahoma last October.”
Their first date started at a local coffee shop in Oklahoma, then led to dinner, followed by a round of Top Golf with Andrew, Hayli and assorted other Wards. That Buddy and Tori married a month later, the end of November, “was a God thing.”
“I’d been single a couple years, and last summer started feeling like I was ready to date again,” Buddy said. “Faith and family are at the top of my list, and I had a conversation with God one day. He told me, ‘You won’t pick the right one, but I will. And you’ll know.’”
From the day they met, Buddy and Tori averaged three hours on the phone together when they weren’t in the same spot. Then Tori flew into Dallas to see Buddy. And at 12:57 a.m. on November 8, he took a knew in the Love Field lobby and popped the question. He’d asked her dad ahead of time, and had his sisters and brother-in-law standing by to catch the answer on their phone cameras. Buddy and Tori were married on November 27 at the Cowboy Church of Erath County in Stephenville, where his mom, Becky, serves as the church secretary.
“Because of our coffee connection, we did a pourover—where we both poured hot water over coffee grounds, then drank from the same cup—instead of a unity candle,” Buddy said. “Then we went jackpotting in Vegas for our honeymoon. Tori and I like a simple life. We spend a lot of time in our living-quarters trailer. Security is not material. I like our life just like it is right now.”