Willingham making career of being late

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

CALGARY -- Sean Willingham was at the lake last week, playing on his boat, when the call came in to join the bullriders at the Calgary Stampede.

He wasn't home.

"I missed it," he said of the call he was dying to receive as the first alternate. "I was like an hour late when I called back and I was like, 'Man, I hope they didn't give that spot away.' "

They didn't, and the Summerville, Ga., cowboy made the most of his late entry with an 88.5 -- the best score in any bucking event on the afternoon -- to claim the $5,500 top prize in Pool A bullriding action yesterday.

Going spin-for-spin and kick-for-kick with the 1,400-lb. tan beast, Willingham thoroughly enjoyed his wild ride.

But it, too, was late.

He wasn't supposed to be last out of the chutes, but had to wait to get his gear back from Mooresville, N.C.'s J.B. Mauney, who rode twice before Willingham made his 2009 Stampede debut.

"They lost his gear bag on the way up here. He had to use my spurs, my boots, my vest and my helmet," Willingham said with a laugh. "The only thing I had was a rope and a glove.

"Then he got a re-ride ... I had to wait on my stuff. I couldn't ride in slick heels and no spurs."

Well worth the wait, his gear must have been lucky. Mauney finished third for a $3,500 payday with an 81 atop Bin Drinkin. He was one of only five riders who didn't get bucked off the rank bulls on the afternoon.

Luck, it seems, is on Willingham's side.

He had a hefty score to beat out after Wardlow's Devon Mezei teamed with Swervyn Mervyn to post an 87 shortly before Willingham popped out of the chutes.

He did it with points to spare.

And despite a tough finish out of the top 10 on the PBR circuit on the year, he got the call he so desperately wanted to make it here in the first place.

"I knew the Stampede was coming up. I was just telling my girl at home, 'Stampede's got to be coming up and I ain't got a call.' I knew I was first alternate," Willingham recalled.

"Sure enough, the next day after the conversation we had, I got to go."

Steer wrestling

Steer wrestler Clayton Moore was racing against the clock all day.

Moore entered a pro rodeo in Cochrane yesterday morning, but a couple of wrong turns left him wondering if he'd miss his first cattle call at the Calgary Stampede.

"I was running really late, so I was kind of half panicked and my friend and my girlfriend and my mom were all pulling their hair out because I'm blowing up at everybody and stressed out and trying to hurry," Moore said. "All for nothing."

More like, all to tuck a cool $5,500 in his Wranglers.

When the Pouce Coupe, B.C., bulldogger arrived in the chutes at Stampede Park for the first go-round of the steer wrestling yesterday, he showed he was still in hurry-up mode.

Moore, the first cowboy on the lineup card, spiked his steer in 4.0 seconds, finishing up four-tenths of a second faster than any of his bulldogging buddies.

Moore, 27, is making his second consecutive trip to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but yesterday marked his first lap aboard the Stampede victory-lap horse.

"It always feels good to be the first guy out and to go and make a good run like that. It sets the pace and it does put a little bit of pressure on everybody else," Moore said.

"But you never want to count anybody out here because everybody has worked real hard at it. They're definitely the best, so you dang sure can't count your chickens."

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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