OAKLAND, Calif. – Stetson Lawrence was about two buckoffs away back in May to having his bull riding dreams come to a screeching halt.
The 25-year-old had a little over $1,000 remaining in his pocket as he headed out to Pala, California, for a Touring Pro Division event. The expense of traveling all over the country to bull riding events was taking its toll on him financially, as well as mentally. The frustration of struggling on the Built Ford Tough Series in 2013 remained fresh in his mind as he was mucking his way across the United States in attempts of making it back to the PBR’s top tour.
He had bucked off Apollo Stripes a week earlier at Last Cowboy Standing, and had just gone 0-for-2 at a TPD event in Pueblo, Colo.
Lawrence was beginning to believe it may just be time to replenish his bank account with a job that did not require staying on top of a 2,000-pound bucking bull.
Time was running out.
Yet, it all changed in Pala. He used his frustration to his benefit and began riding with an aggressive mindset. He had to make 8 seconds. There was no choice.
He did just that, riding Ace (79 points), Attitude Adjustment (86) andDetailer (90) to win the Pala TPD event and roughly $8,000.
Lawrence didn’t let his West Coast success stop; instead, he used the money to keep on traveling and the momentum sparked him to a PBR-high five summer TPD victories, which earned him a spot back on the BFTS.
“It went good after that – just having the relief of knowing I can go for a little bit longer was a big key for me,” Lawrence said. “It was definitely a turning point.”
Lawrence is currently up to 26th in the world standings after ending the first half in May ranked 50th in the world. He is on pace to qualify for his first career Built Ford Tough World Finals and took another stride toward that goal on Friday night with an 85.5-point performance on Closing Time in Round 1 of the Kawasaki Strong Battle at the Bay.
It was an aggressive ride by Lawrence as he fought to stay back on Closing Time, while the bull tried to bring his momentum forward.
“I just tried to stay calm and fight my way through it,” Lawrence said. “Halfway through there, I kind of got my spot where I need to be to finish my ride. I was staying calm and still being aggressive where you don’t give up. It is about having a lot of try.”
He is coming off his best performance on the BFTS after going 2-for-3 last weekend in Laughlin, Nevada. He rode Hard Times for 85.75 points for his first-career ride in a Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
“It felt really good,” Lawrence said. “It was a lot of weight off my shoulders again and I have to keep my head down and act like I have to ride for everything.”
Last year, Lawrence only rode two bulls in nine events on tour. This year, he is up to six rides in nine events – which is still not where he wants to be – but this season he has been able to handle the adversity better.
“It’s frustrating when everything is not going your way like it was last year,” Lawrence explained. “I would let everything get to my head and it got really frustrating, but here in the last week or so, I have been just getting back to the basics and just riding bulls like I know how to.”
The former Trenton, North Dakota, high school football and basketball player said that since the Pala event, he has become a more aggressive bull rider, trying to ride with a determined passion instead of a relaxed and laidback style.
“I ride better kind of pissed off, I would say,” Lawrence said. “It is more of an aggressiveness and mad (style) than all kind of relaxed and laidback.”
Even currently being on tour hasn’t guaranteed Lawrence financial stability. Until last week in Laughlin, Lawrence, who normally spends close to $700-$800 on plane tickets alone per week for BFTS events, was actually in the red before his fifth-place win in Laughlin. He usually flies out of Minot, Dickinson or Bismarck, North Dakota.
Instead of letting his emotions get the best of him this year, Lawrence also credits childhood friend Nathan Schaper for helping him remain positive. The two competed in 4H together, as well as youth bull ridings before they turned pro. Now, the two travel and room together. Schaper can also be seen at times on the back of the chute encouraging his buddy.
“Having someone from your hometown here to help you out just makes you realize it is another bull riding,” Lawrence said. “You do what you got to do and ride like you know how.”
Schaper said, “I kept telling him just wait until you ride in the short round. That is when you put a couple rides together and that’s when it feels the best. I think he has that feeling now, and knows what it feels like. I expect it to happen a lot more now.”
Lawrence added that he is having fun and enjoying being part of the race for making it to World Finals. He only leads No. 35 Harve Stewart by 692.53 points.
It may not be the world title race, but is fun one to be a part of.
“I think it is fun, because I have something to look forward to,” Lawrence said. “I definitely am not going to be in the world title race, but I have always wanted to make the World Finals and fulfill my dream of doing that.”
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