After eight weeks on the Toughest Cowboy Series, Bandy Murphy emerged as the best three-event roughstock cowboy, winning the 2009 Toughest Cowboy title and the deed to a 40-acre parcel in the Rocky Mountains outside Laramie, Wyoming.
After an eight-week elimination-style season, the final four competitors-Murphy, Chad Eubank, Charlie Barker and Steve Woolsey-had to ride two bareback horses, two saddle bronc horses and two bulls all on the same night, with the winner being determined by total points on six head. The format is unique to Toughest Cowboy and the grueling competition tested a cowboy's "toughness" both physically and mentally. Also unique to Toughest Cowboy is that the winner was awarded the deed to their very own scenic ranch in the Wyoming Rocky Mountains in addition to a monetary award.
Murphy and Eubank were familiar with the Finals format, having competed on the Toughest Cowboy Series the last three years. Barker and Woolsey experienced it for the first time in Chicago. Murphy, of Morgan Mill, Texas, won the inaugural season in 2007 but at the time the deed to a ranch was not part of the winnings.
"My goal all season was to win the Toughest Cowboy title and the deed to the ranch," Murphy said. "The Toughest Cowboy title is a very prestigious award and it means you were the best three-event cowboy in the series. The money and ranch are great rewards but winning the title means the most to me."
Murphy started strong in the first round of the bareback riding, turning in the top score of 84 points with Barker a close second at 80. Barker stayed consistent in the saddle bronc riding, turning in another 80-point ride, while Murphy was second with a 75. Murphy started pulling away from the rest of the field in the first round of the bull riding, finishing with an 86-point ride, 41 points better than his next closest competitor.
Having the upper hand going into the second section, Murphy turned in another solid ride in the bareback riding but trailed Eubank, who posted an 83-point ride. In the saddle bronc riding, Murphy turned it up a notch, finishing with an 84-point ride to outdistance the rest of the field and all but secured his second Toughest Cowboy title. He entered the final round of bull riding with a 40-point cushion.
Woolsey, a Wrangler NFR qualifier who is best known for his bull riding, struggled all night having sub-par scores in all three events in the first section, dashing any hope of winning the title. He rebounded in the second section but it was too little too late.
Barker, who had struggled all year in his preferred event of bull riding, was Murphy's closest contender heading into the final discipline. The struggle continued for Barker as he was tossed from his bull just 3.5 seconds into his ride, opening the door for Murphy. Eubank was the next cowboy out of the chutes and before nodding his head he trailed Murphy by 54 points. Eubank made the eight-second whistle and received 77 points for his efforts.
That meant that Murphy just needed another consistent bull ride to win his second title. The trouble was that Murphy's bull had never been ridden for a full eight seconds. Despite getting thrown from his bull 2.4 seconds before the whistle he picked up 64 points to secure the title.
"I was not happy with my final bull ride as I would have liked to make the whistle and finish the Finals with no penalty points," said Murphy, who was penalized 24 points for not riding the full eight seconds. "This was a great year, with great competition and great competitors and I am honored to have finished on top. I look forward to returning in 2010 to defend my title."
During the season, Murphy won tournament titles in Indianapolis, Ind., and the semifinal round in St. Paul, Minn. He was the only competitor in the field to have captured two wins prior to entering the Finals in Chicago.
Murphy plans to spend the rest of his year competing in PRCA rodeos. For more information on Toughest Cowboy, visit www.toughestcowboy.com.