Stetson Lawrence won the May 17-18 Professional Bull Riders competition at the Pala Rodeo Grounds.
Judges Bill Pacheco and Steve Yoast gave the Williston, N.D. cowboy 176 points for his two Saturday rides, and when no other cowboy was able to match that score by the end of the second day Pala Casino gave Lawrence the $8,596.80 first-place share of the total $25,000 prize money.
“Just really blessed and happy,” Lawrence said.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit,” Lawrence said. “Just glad to get two bulls covered.”
The format of the PBR at Pala involves a “long go” of 35 entries with 10 of those advancing to the “short go,” where any score is added to their long go score. If fewer than 10 riders have a qualified ride in the long go, the cowboys who stayed on their bulls the longest comprise the remainder of the short go competitors.
Pala has separate long go and short go sessions each day with the final prize money being awarded to the cowboys with the best overall one-day scores. A cowboy may enter on both days and receive separate scores if he pays separate entry fees, and Lawrence took advantage of that opportunity.
The 25-year-old Lawrence has been a PBR member since he was 18. Pala Casino has had an annual PBR event across the parking lot from Pala Casino since 2010. The 2014 competition was Lawrence’s first at Pala. “It had the most money added for the weekend,” he said. “Otherwise it’s a long way from my home.”
(Added money refers to money other than the entry fee portion of the jackpot and is provided by sponsors or other sources.)
Tommy G Productions is used for both stock and contract acts. The Pueblo, Colo. company used bulls from several stock contractors. In the Saturday long go, Lawrence rode Attitude Adjustment from stock contractor MG Bulls. “Just a good bull away from my hand,” he said
Pacheco and Yoast awarded Lawrence 86 points for his performance on Attitude Adjustment. “I rode good,” Lawrence said.
Humpz N Hornz is the stock contractor which owns Detailer, who was Lawrence’s Saturday short go partner. “That bull was pretty good,” Lawrence said. “Turned back into my hand, which I prefer.”
Each judge gives the rider a score of up to 25 points and the bull a score of up to 25 points, and the scores for the cowboy and the animal are added to determine the final score. “My short round bull first night was probably one of the better rides I’ve made,” Lawrence said.
The combined rider and bull scores from Pacheco and Yoast were worth 90 points for Lawrence. “I was well appreciative of that,” Lawrence said.
The 90-point ride was the highest short go score ever in the history of Pala PBR and only the second ride of at least 90 points. In 2013, Gage Gay had a long go score of 90.5 points on Money Blue.
Lawrence’s highest-scored ride was on May 31, 2012, when his 91 points on Buckin’ Fantastic won the Aaron Roy PBR Invitational in Asquith, Saskatchewan.
The two Saturday rides gave Lawrence 176 points. Montana cowboy Brady Sims was the only other May 17 rider who stayed on both of his bulls for the required eight seconds; an 83-point short go ride gave Sims an average (aggregate) of 159 points.
Lawrence’s score is the second highest in Pala PBR history. Rubens Barbosa had a score of 177.5 to win the 2012 PBR.
The May 17 performance, the first Saturday evening event in Pala PBR history, also saw an attendance record. The general admission bleachers seat 2,444, and the attendance also includes standing room only general admission space and two VIP areas. The general admission seats were sold out with standing room only being utilized.
Lawrence also appreciated the support of the fans on both days. “The crowd’s nice,” he said.
The Pala Rodeo Grounds also had a new configuration from the previous four rodeos. The bleachers were moved from the south side to the west side with the north side VIP area being shortened and a second VIP area placed on the south side. The chutes, which previously had been on both the west side and the east side, were all on the east side this year.
Lawrence still faced the possibility of a May 18 rider beating his first-place score. “Somebody had to put two good bull rides together. I was a little nervous, but it worked out my way,” he said.
The third rider May 18 was Jay Miller of Liberty, S.C. Miller scored 86.5 points on Whiplash, which remained as Sunday’s best long go ride. Lawrence was the 33rd cowboy in the May 18 performance and was on Ace, who is owned by Menifee stock contractor Alex Hauser. “Just a nice little bull to get on,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence stayed on Ace for the required eight seconds and was given 79 points for his ride. Ten riders in Sunday’s long go covered their bulls, and Lawrence’s score ranked seventh. The inverse order of the short go made Lawrence the fourth rider.
Lawrence was bucked off by the Jerry Brown bull Boot Jack approximately halfway between the opening of the chute and the eight-second buzzer. However, a re-ride may be given if the rider is fouled in the chute, so Lawrence had one additional opportunity for a second position payout.
(A re-ride may also be given if the chute is opened before the rider signals that he is ready. The judges may award a re-ride to a cowboy if they feel that the animal did not buck sufficiently; if the cowboy takes the re-ride option the score or lack thereof on the re-ride replaces his initial score.)
The remaining short go cowboys and bulls preceded Lawrence’s re-ride. Arizona rider Tyler Harr rode Harlem Shuffle for 83 points and an average of 166 points, moving him into second place. Miller scored 86 points on Game Over, giving him 172 points for what would earn second place and $6,917.13.
Lawrence had his re-ride on the Alex Hauser bull Move Over but stayed on for only a couple of seconds. His one-head average May 18 did not place him in another of the eight paying positions; Kansas’ Kasey Hayes scored 84.5 points that afternoon for the eighth-place average. Lawrence followed his unsuccessful re-ride attempt with the presentation of the first-place check.
“I’ll come back next year for sure,” Lawrence said.