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Cooper follows in father’s footsteps

By Brett Hoffman | Published Wednesday, January 3, 2018
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In 2017, rodeo fans witnessed the crowning of a new world all-around champion and two pro bull riders topping $1 million in total earnings.

Tuf Cooper, a former Decatur resident who lives near Weatherford, snared his first all-around gold buckle after becoming a world-class steer roper in addition to being one of the best tie-down ropers.

Prior to 2017, Cooper had earned eight National Finals Rodeo berths and three gold buckles in tie-down roping on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit. This year, he added a trip the National Finals Steer Roping in Mulvane, Kan., to his resume.

Winning a substantial amount of prize money in both tie-down roping and steer roping, Cooper became a world all-around title contender. In 2017, Cooper finished 12th in steer roping and second in tie-down roping race en route to winning world all-around title. He clinched the title Dec. 16 after competing in tie-down roping at the NFR at Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack Center.

Cooper’s all-around title was similar to his father’s victory 34 years go. In 1983, Roy Cooper won the PRCA’s all-around, tie-down roping and steer roping world titles. Roy Cooper lives in Decatur.

On the Professional Bull Riders circuit, 20-year-old Jess Lockwood of Volborg, Mont., became the youngest cowboy to clinch a world title in the PBR’s 24-year history. He received a $1 million bonus for snaring the gold buckle at the 2017 PBR World Finals on Nov. 5 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

In winning the world’s most coveted bull riding title, Lockwood broke the age record set by Decatur’s Mike Lee, who won the gold buckle at 21 in 2004.

In the PBR, the world champion receives $1 million in addition to the prize money he earns during the regular season and the PBR Finals. Lockwood earned $1,525,292.

Bull rider Sage Kimzey of Strong City, Okla., also commanded respect by earning more than $1 million on three pro bull riding circuits.

On the PBR circuit, Kimzey earned $549,566, including $433,333 from winning the RFD-TVs The American in February in Arlington. On the PRCA circuit, Kimzey earned $436,479 as he clinched his fourth consecutive PRCA title. Kimzey also pocketed a $100,000 bonus for clinching the Championship Bull Riding title after competing in the association’s finale in July in Cheyenne, Wyo. to bring his yearly total to $1,086,045.

When a bull rider would win more than $1 million in the recent past, it was only from within the PBR, which has awarded a $1 million bonus to its world champion since 2003. But Kimzey earned lots of respect this year as he racked up more than $1 million by excelling in three bull riding associations.

On the National Cutting Horse Association circuit, superstar rider Austin Shepard of Summerdale, Ala., and a 3-year-old stallion named Dual Reyish clinched the NCHA’s World Championship Futurity open division title on Dec. 10 after turning in a lofty final round score of 228 at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum in Fort Worth. The victory earned the horse’s owner, Billy Wolf of Whitesboro, the coveted $192,762 prize.

The 2017 Futurity victory was the second major title that Shepard clinched at a high-profile NCHA show. On Dec. 2, Shepard and a 6-year-old mare named Deluxe Checks claimed the world title during the NCHA World Finals at WR Watt Arena in Fort Worth. Shepard and Deluxe Checks earned $23,777 throughout the World Finals and broke the NCHA’s open division annual earnings record with $146,977 throughout 2017, according to sallyharrison.com.

Shepard and Deluxe Checks broke the previous open division annual earnings record of $142,346 that was set in 2015 by then open world champion Special Nu Baby and rider Matt Gaines of Weatherford.

Brett Hoffman, a Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame member, has reported on rodeos for more than three decades for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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