(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Hunter Cure scored a 5.46 in the Steer Wrestling, in the Days of 47 Rodeo, at Vivint Smart Home Arena, Saturday, July 23, 2016.
Days of ’47 Rodeo: Under improbable odds, Guthrie Murray wins Championship Bull Riding
By Hayden Kim The Salt Lake Tribune
Guthrie Murray wins bull riding, qualifies for finals later this year.
Going into the week, Guthrie Murray was dealing with unpaid fines from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association after being caught trying to compete at various member competitions without paying entry fees.
So the 24-year-old from Miami, Okla., came to the Days of '47 Rodeo in Salt Lake, an event organized by the Elite Rodeo Athletes organization, with a shot to win some money and qualify for the ERA World Championships later this year in Dallas.
Murray made the most of his shot. In Saturday's final night of the event, Guthrie went last out of 12 riders in the bull riding competition and scored 87 points, winning the event and earning $4,791.66.
"It's just been crazy with how it all went," Murray said. "Coming up here, not even be a top guy, and end up winning this deal … they got all the top guys here and it's definitely where everyone wants to be at."
Thursday, Murray advanced to Saturday's final round after he drew the No. 34 chip to break a three-way qualifying tie with Tyler and Tim Bingham. Under ERA rules, every rider randomly draws a chip before competing in the preliminary round that decides their fate if there is a tie, with the rider with the highest-numbered chip advancing.
Amid the dispute over riders between the long-established PRCA and new ERA, there are young cowboys such as Murray who emerged as benefactors of a new era of rodeo this week. Regardless of where one stands in the ERA, this week's event offered an opportunity that allows for the best talent to rise to the top.
"As we create incentives, those guys are going to want to come and that's great," ERA Board of Directors member Bobby Mote, said. "We want them to come. It's not a competition against rodeo organizations — this side or that side … we're going to keep doing our job and grow the sport. Everybody has got families to feed … this group is just passionate about making it better."
Still, riders are torn on the direction of their sport. They know it's a long-term discussion that will continue past this weekend and eventually shape the format of rodeos for years to come.
Like every cowboy, Murray said he's had a childhood dream of competing in the National Finals Rodeo, an event organized by the PRCA. But with a wife who wants to raise a family in the future, Murray will have to weigh his options.
"Right now, it's just me and my wife, so it's not bad being on the road," Murray said. "But eventually I want to have a family and later down the road, it would be nice just to come to these deals."
On one hand, he can aim to join the elite group of ERA athletes and cut his travel by sticking to one market. On the other, he can pay off his fines and rejoin the PRCA circuit in hopes of earning enough money to qualify for the NFR.
"I don't know if I want to throw that out quite yet," Murray said about leaving the PRCA. "That's something I'm just going to have to figure out."
Either way, he's happy to have more options than before.