Twenty-year-old Jess Lockwood of Volborg, Mont., became the youngest cowboy to clinch a world title on the Professional Bull Riders circuit and received a $1 million bonus as the 2017 World Finals concluded its five-day run Sunday at T-Mobile Arena.
In clinching the world’s most coveted bull riding title, Lockwood broke the age record set by Mike Lee of Decatur who snared the gold buckle at age 21 in 2004.
The PBR world champion receives $1 million in addition to the prize money he earned during the regular season and the World Finals. Lockwood’s total earnings in 2017 were $1,525,292.
But Lockwood said money is temporary.
“The $1 million is icing on the cake,” Lockwood said. “This [world championship] buckle is what means the most. The money will go away, but the buckle will be with me forever.”
Lockwood’s world title victory was anticlimactic. He won the first three rounds and then was bucked off his final three bulls. He received his last two zeros Sunday.
Jose Vitor Leme of Brazil clinched the World Finals event (average/aggregate) title. He was the only rider who stayed on all six bulls during the Las Vegas championships. Leme, who also won the PBR’s Rookie of the Year award, earned $416,000.
For the second consecutive year, SweetPro’s Bruiser (D&H Cattle Co./Buck Cattle Co.) clinched the PBR’s 2017 World Champion Bull title.
Lockwood entered the World Finals ranked fourth in a close race with Derek Kolbaba, Eduardo Aparecido (of Decatur), Cooper Davis and Kaique Pacheco (of Decatur). But the other four men had lackluster performances throughout the World Finals, meaning Lockwood didn’t have to ride exceptionally well after taking the lead with a Round 2 victory Thursday night.
The world title is based on points earned throughout a 10-month regular season and the six rounds in Vegas. Lockwood proved to be the best rider overall throughout 2017.
Lockwood finished the year with 4,862.5 points and Kolbaba finished second with 4,415. Davis was third with 4,283.33, Aparecido came in fourth with 4,199.16 and Pacheco wound up fifth with 3,972.5.
Lockwood said it took lots of determination to win the title.
“It took a lot of grit, just cowboying up each and every weekend,” Lockwood said. “You have to make the most out of every single bull.”
Throughout the past year, Lockwood has been mentored by former National Finals Rodeo bull riding and saddle bronc riding qualifier Cody Lambert of Bowie who serves as the PBR’s livestock director. Lambert is among 20 cowboys who founded the PBR, which conducted its first title race in 1994.
“He’s a better bull rider at 20 years old than I think I’ve ever seen,” Lambert said. “He’s just a well-rounded young man in his faith and he wants to do the right thing. He enjoys doing the right thing. He enjoys where he’s at right now. A lot of 20-year-old people do not know where they want to go. But he’s known for a long time where he wants to go.”