In the final four at AT&T Stadium for the American Rodeo, Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins were the only teams without gold buckles on either end.
Yet, that didn’t matter much, considering their previous records and number of wins.
- They both ran 3.69 seconds to win $100,000 each.
- Their seven-day streak ended with winning the Lone Star Shootout and $65,750 each.
- They placed in each round and won the second performance outright to earn $5,750 more at RodeoHouston.
It comes just a few months after they broke the 27-year-old NFR aggregate record in Las Vegas.
Ward believes that they were meant to form a good team with Hawkins when they first started playing together, regardless of whether they were naive or not. There was no doubt from the beginning that the partnership would work, and they would catch an incredible number of cows.
Their confidence in themselves pushed them to succeed even when they didn’t deserve it.
Ward and Hawkins came second out in the final round following Clay Smith and Jade Corkill’s no time. Although neither Junior Nogueira and Kaleb Driggers nor Wesley Thorp and Cody Snow was able to stop the clock, they watched them in action while seated at the back of the arena.
Hawkins pointed out that even though they were not the favorites to win in that round, they were able to win because all they did was compete against the top athletes such as Junior and Welsey. He said winning against such competitors came down to luck and confidence. While they did not change their running patterns, they did it with agility and felt they were worthy of winning.
In the American’s semifinal round of 10, Ward and Hawkins finished third after one of the hottest rounds of team roping in recent memory.
Their time was 3.69, so they had to settle for third place behind Snow and Thorp’s 3.46 and Driggers and Nogueira’s 3.51. Smith and Corkill’s scooped the number four position with a time of 3.86. Due to the challenging conditions, Cory Kidd/Lane Mitchell, and Dustin Egusquiza/Travis Graves, couldn’t post times less than four seconds.
Rodeos sanctioned by the PRCA have been part of The American in the past three years. The PRCA calculated its world standings using some $50,000 of American earnings. We saw it happening to Erich Rogers and Paden Bray, Luke Brown and Joseph Harrison, and Coleman Proctor and Ryan Motes.
The American no longer belongs to ProRodeo after its ownership changed in 2022. Consequently, Ward and Hawkins must earn their third consecutive NFR berth the hard way.
Hawkins said he respects the rules put in place to make the rodeo finals stand out as a captivating competition, no matter how much money is added in the American Rodeo. Essentially, the American has two ways of getting in long and hard-fought battles. There’s a chance to win $5,000, $10,000, $15,000, $100,000. The payout in itself is substantial, so he doesn’t mind that it doesn’t count. He is just very grateful for the team victory.
Ward admits, however, that his brown horse, Biscuit, isn’t the perfect setup for running hard. He explained that he is prone to missing the barrier and causing his horse to go incorrectly. For the run to be successful, he must get a good start and close to the cow and keep him there as long as possible.
As luck would have it, Ward’s brother-in-law Hawkins knows the play and holds the steers straight to ensure their successful run. One thing that makes that run work is his grade gelding X.
Hawkins’ horse has been the most successful horse by far in the last four or five years, despite not being rodeoed long enough. He now has one of the most consistent horses. Hawkins stated that even though his horse isn’t the best at anything, he goes to a good spot that allows him to catch a cow. There is a lot of chemistry between him and the horse.
The 35-year-old Hawkins and his wife, Tori, have just started building a house in Stephenville, Texas. He will surely be able to cover those expenses thanks to an influx of funds last week.
On the other hand, 31-year-old Ward and his wife (Tori’s sister) are currently based in Edmond, Oklahoma. They will feed their rodeo habit with the money won last week and may even purchase a home in Texas so that they are closer to winter rodeos and jackpots.
With $20,089.54 each, Ward and Hawkins rank 7th in the PRCA world standings. Despite the no-times, the American’s top four teams won $13,333 each for their spot in the finals.
Ward and Hawkins are likely to continue their reign at RodeoHouston, where they will rope again on March 16