Aaron Pass, 21, of Hillsboro held on through two rough rounds to clench first place overall in the seventh annual J.W. Hart PBR at the Wise County Sheriff’s Posse Arena in Decatur.
The bulls proved tougher than most of the riders Saturday night. After cycling through 47 riders, only eight managed to score. Cloven hooves danced dangerously across the sand as the bulls spun like whirling dervishes. The 1,500 pound behemoths bucked off the rugged riders again and again.
“They brought in some tough bulls,” said Andrew Rottner, one of the event coordinators.
Riding Mr. Personality, Pass scored 82 in the first round, putting him in seventh. Douglas Duncan, 23, of Alvin won the first round with a score of 88.
Pass sealed the win with a score of 91 in the championship round taking home purse of $4,568.20 for 16 seconds of work. Pass is currently ranked 53rd in the world.
Mike Lee, 26, of Decatur, was the only local in Saturday’s PBR.
Lee, one of the top 10 riders in the world, failed to score. A chocolate-colored bull named Lil Red Cat tossed him into the red dirt right out of the chute.
“I just got a bad start,” Lee said. “Somehow my foot ended up on the back of his neck, and that’s never a good way to start.”
He came into the arena on the heels of a first-place finish at the Des Moines Invitational, May 1.
Lee ranks ninth in the 2010 Built Ford Tough Series PBR standings. Out of 20 rodeos, he’s racked up more than $94,000 and finished in the top 10 in 50 percent of the events. He’s earned more than $2.7 million during his career and won the world championship in 2004.
Lee is 2,478.75 points behind leader Renato Nunes of Brazil. The PBR world finals will take place Oct. 20-24 in Las Vegas.
Despite the thrills of bull riding, the J.W. Hart PBR serves a bigger purpose.
“This is one of the few rodeo events that does this for charity,” Rottner said. “When we started this, no one else was doing it. We’ve been kind of a trendsetter.”
The total raised this year is not yet tallied.
“Our goal was to raise $25,000 for the United Way of Wise County,” Rottner said. “We shouldn’t have a problem getting to that number.”
The event has also raised money for the Rider Relief Fund, Wise Regional Hospital Fund, Habitat for Humanity and others.
Since its inception, the rodeo has generated $270,000 for charities, Rottner said.
J.W. Hart, a retired bull rider from Oklahoma, started the rodeo in Gainesville.
“J.W. Hart came to us seven years ago,” said Roy Young, an event coordinator. “Gainesville didn’t seem like they wanted to do it. So we put it on. It was a success, and it raised a lot of money. We didn’t know what to do with it so we called Martin Woodruff (executive director of United Way of Wise County).”
They’ve raised money for United Way every year since. Funds are gathered through ticket sales, concessions, parking and sponsorships.
Rottner said all the volunteers and sponsors help make the event successful every year.
During a break in the bull-riding action, a sentimental moment graced the well-trodden arena. Four children, all dealing with varying degrees of severe physical disabilities, rode in on horseback. The children, some focused intently just to balance on the backs of their horses, circled the entire ring to a round of applause.
The children are riders with the All Star Equestrian Foundation, a non-profit therapeutic equine facility in Mansfield.
“The fans were on their feet the entire time they were out there,” Rottner said. “It was the heart-touching moment of the event. It shows just the kind of people we have around here.”
1st – Aaron Pass, Hillsboro, $4,568.20
2nd – Clayton Baethge, Johnson City, $3,263.00
3rd – Douglas Duncan, Alvin, $3,263.00
4th – Valdiron de Oliveira, Aparecida de Goiania, Brazil, $2,284.00
5th – Derek McCormack, Covelo, Calif., $1,435.72
6th – Reese Cates, Carthage, $619.97
6th – David Hudson, Jacksonville, Fla., $619.97
7th – Kasey Hayes, Liberal, Kansas, $261.04
8th – Cord McCoy, Tupelo, Okla.
9th – Luke Williams, Leon, Kansas