Chad Masters

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All I ever wanted to do my whole life is make the Finals a couple times. Not many guys from where I'm from have done that. There are a lot of guys from here who rope good enough, but not many get the chance to go out and try it. So I feel lucky to get to do this.I ended up 17th in the world in 2002, and missed my first Finals by $2,000. The whole year came down to the last steer of the regular season. But I can't blame it on the last steer, because there were plenty of other chances along the way. (Masters roped with Tom Bourne and Michael Harris from January to mid-September before hooking up with Michael Jones after Pendleton.)

Going into the last week (of the regular season) at Kansas City and the Cow Palace, Michael and I had to place on every steer. We won second in the first round at Kansas City. Then we went to San Francisco, and placed third in the first round and second in the second round at the Cow Palace. It was looking like

I had a chance. Then we went back to Kansas City to run our second steer. That was the loneliest place I've ever been. The steer was supposed to be a runner, and I completely dumbed up and choked. All I had to do was catch him, and I tore the barrier down. We were 5 again to win second in the round (without the barrier). That's when it got really tough and I didn't think I had a chance. I rode out of that arena sick. I couldn't believe I did that.We drove 20 hours in snow and ice back to San Francisco, driving 20 miles an hour. There were big trucks turned over in the road in Colorado. What a wreck.I'd never been in that must-win spot before, where so much was riding on a few runs. I had to win $10,000 right there at the end, so I thought I had to win on every steer I ran. I look back now, a year or so later, and realize I was going too fast trying to win first on every steer instead of just trying to place along. That made me mess up a lot more.When Michael and I ran that last steer at the Cow Palace I knew I had to break the arena record to win the round and the average in order to have a shot at the Finals. Where Michael threw we could've won first, but it didn't work out. I couldn't blame it on one steer, and if I could

I would have blamed it on that barrier I broke in Kansas City.It was a 42-hour drive home from California, and it was as bad as it gets. I ran out of diesel about four hours into it, out in the middle of nowhere, 25 miles from the nearest truckstop. Michael stayed with the rig and the horses, and I was walking down the road and didn't even have a gas can. I flagged down an old couple in a motorhome, and they put me on their couch in the back. I fell asleep.

When they let me out, I bought a gas can and paid $2.50 a gallon to fill it. I sat on the interstate for an hour trying to get back to the truck. The guy who finally picked me up was driving 120 miles an hour. That gas jug was in my lap, and I've never gone that fast in a car before. That was a scary deal, and I was already down. I finally got back to the truck, and had heck getting it to start. By the time we got to Michael's house in Texas we'd changed two flat tires on the trailer. We had one more flat right before we got to his house, but we didn't have any more spares so we just left it and went on.

When I watched the Finals on TV, I realized you don't get lucky and make the Finals. The guys I watched deserved to be there. They roped better than me that year.

I thought 2002 was as bad as it gets, and was really looking forward to 2003 because things hadn't turned out like I wanted them to. But 2003 didn't start any better. We were lucky to be in the top 50. I was beginning to wonder if I'd learned anything from 2002. Truth is, I learned more from 2003. I figured out that I don't have to be down about not winning, because if we're roping good it's going to turn around.

I started 2003 roping not to mess up, and that's a mistake because that's not how I rope. Going fast is what's comfortable to me, and if I slow down just enough to catch consistently it all works out. I believe things go as they're meant to be, and that my 2002 experience and disappointment made me a better roper. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got out here on the road came from Blaine Linaweaver. He told me, "Keep your head down and keep climbing." It's so true.

You can't relax and stop trying to do better all the time or you'll sink.When you finally realize that it's going to turn around when it's your turn to win you have a chance at confidence. You've got to rope to win. You can't rope not to mess up. That's why Speedy's (Williams) so good. He ropes to win on every steer.

Another thing that helps me with my perspective is the fact that if I run out of money I have to go home and work. What's so bad about that? We all want to go home all year anyway.