Monday, April 6, 2009
Seven-time world champion Mortensen heads ProRodeo Hall of Fame induction class
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Seven-time World Champion Dan Mortensen, one of the greatest saddle bronc riders in the sport's history, will be inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame July 11 in a six-member class that includes rodeo's first Triple Crown winner and one of only two men to win average titles in both roughstock and timed events at the same Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Mortensen, of Billings, Mont., the late all-around cowboy Leonard Ward of Talent, Ore., bull rider Ted Nuce of Stephenville, Texas, and steer roper Walt Arnold of Silverton, Texas, were all voted in by the ProRodeo Hall of Fame Selection Committee during meetings at the Hall of Fame March 30, along with the late Erv Korkow (stock contractor) of Canning, S.D., and all-around hand Ace Berry (lifetime achievement) of Oakdale, Calif.
The ProRodeo Hall of Fame induction weekend, July 9-11, will include a Special Rodeo, a showing of the Lane Frost documentary film Challenge of Champions, a golf tournament, a pro/am team roping and the Cowboy Ball before the 10 a.m.-noon induction ceremonies in the garden area of the Hall.
Mortensen, 40, and Casey Tibbs share the ProRodeo record for most saddle bronc riding world championships with Mortensen winning his six gold buckles in 1993-95, 1997-98 and 2003. He was the all-around world champion in 1997, edging Joe Beaver by slightly more than $4,000, and qualified for the NFR 16 times in his 17 full seasons as a PRCA member. During his final world championship season of 2003, Mortensen became the first roughstock cowboy in PRCA history to surpass $2 million in career earnings and he remains fifth on the all-time list with $2,555,252. An 18-foot bronze statue of Mortensen is the centerpiece of the Montana Wall of Champions outside Metra Arena in Billings, Mont.
Ward had his greatest year in 1934 when he won 16 rodeos in bronc riding, steer decorating, bull riding and bareback riding. He won the saddle bronc riding, bareback riding and all-around world championships — the first cowboy to ever win three gold buckles in the same year. Ward continued to compete at a high level until he suffered a badly broken leg at the 1937 California Rodeo in Salinas, Calif. Ward left the sport for good at age 38 in 1941 to take a construction job on Midway Island, near Hawaii, where he was captured by the Japanese and held prisoner for 45 months. After his release, Ward returned to ranching and construction work in Oregon until his death on Feb. 15, 1985.
Nuce, 48, was the 1985 world champion bull rider and qualified for the National Finals Rodeo a record 14 consecutive years (1982-95); he shares the record for total appearances (also 14) with Wacey Cathey. The PRCA Rookie of the Year in 1980, just a year out of high school, Nuce competed in his first NFR at 21 and was as consistent as anyone of his era, finishing as reserve world champion four times, in 1986-88 and 1991. He won two gold medallions for the United States in the bull riding and team competitions in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Alberta.
Although he didn't compete full time until he was 25 years old, Arnold qualified for the National Finals Steer Roping 19 times (1965-67, 1969-72, 1974-82, 1984-86), a number surpassed only by Guy Allen and Arnold Felts in steer roping history. Arnold, 70, won the world championship in 1969 and finished as reserve champion three other times (1971, 1978-79), missing out on the '71 title by just $538 to Olin Young. He won the NFSR average title twice (1965 and 1978) and competed in team roping at the NFR in 1966 and '68. He served as the PRCA's steer roping director from 1974 to 1977.
Just 15 years, 11 months old when he qualified for the NFR the first time in 1962, Berry remained a fixture there into the mid-1970s, competing at both ends of the arena. He qualified for the NFR in team roping 14 consecutive years (1962-75) and six years in bareback riding (1967, 1969-73). Along with Phil Lyne, he is the only man to win NFR average titles in a roughstock event and a timed event in the same year. Berry won the 1972 NFR team roping title with John Miller and the bareback riding with what was then a rodeo record 685 points, the same year that Lyne won the average in bull riding and tie-down roping. Berry, 62, also won NFR average titles in team roping in 1967 and in bareback riding in 1971.
After a decade of producing amateur rodeos, Korkow joined the PRCA in 1958 and formed Korkow-Sutton Rodeo Company with fellow South Dakota stock contractor James Sutton Sr. They had stock in every National Finals Rodeo from its inception in 1959 through the dissolution of their partnership at the end of 1968. Thereafter Korkow and his son, Jim, operated Korkow Rodeos. They lay claim to being just one of three stock contracting companies to have had bucking stock at all of the first 50 NFRs. The only year that Korkow Rodeos does not show in the stock lists for the NFR is 1982, the year in which they auctioned five of their top horses late in the season, after they had already been accepted to the rodeo in Oklahoma City. Korkow received the 1970 PRCA Award of Merit, was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 1992 and was twiced honored with an Erv Korkow Day in his home state. Korkow died on Nov. 25, 1993.
Since the ProRodeo Hall of Fame's opening in 1979, and not including the 2009 class, 206 people, 25 animals and 16 rodeos have been inducted. More than 40,000 people visit the 30,000 square-foot facility that is located adjacent to the national headquarters of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association each year.