CAIRNS, Australia – Ky Hamilton was making the drive home from a rodeo in Moranbah, Queensland, on Saturday night when he saw he had a phone call from 1998 PBR World Champion Troy Dunn.
Hamilton was surprised to see Dunn calling him just past 11 p.m., but the 18-year-old was floored when Dunn offered him a roster spot on Team Australia for the upcoming Global Cup event next weekend in Sydney.
“I didn’t know what to think,” a still stunned Hamilton said late Saturday night. “My heart was up in my throat. I didn’t know what to say. I thought he was joking. I am pretty over the moon. I didn’t think I would have the chance. I didn’t make it into Cairns, and I was pretty disappointed with myself about that.”
Dunn was not joking one bit, and the legendary Australian bull rider made a surprising decision to name Hamilton, as well as Mitchel Paton, to Team Australia following the conclusion of the Cairns Invitational.
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Hamilton is an 18-year-old rising star in Australia, but not many expected Dunn to name the young kid to the team.
The Mackay, Queensland, native is only 5-for-12 (41.7 percent) in seven PBR Australia events this year.
Even Dunn admitted he was unsure about putting Hamilton on the squad until he saw the rest of Australia’s talent pool Saturday night at the Cairns Convention Centre.
“I had him on my mind, but I didn’t really think he was good enough until I saw more of the guys riding,” Dunn said. “Then I knew he was.”
Dunn had pinpointed riders in Cairns that he was debating putting on the roster. However, none of the riders won the event nor rode all three of their bulls.
Hamilton also has been tearing it up at open rodeos throughout Australia and has been hitting the rodeo trail some.
Hamilton won two novice bull ridings this weekend.
“He has been to seven (PBR Australia) events and he has ridden like 40 percent, which is right up there compared to the guys that I was trying to choose from tonight,” Dunn said. “He wins open bull ridings and pro rodeos and amateur rodeos. This is his first year as an open. I said to him, 'how many open bull ridings have you won?' and he said, ‘I don’t know. I lost count.’”
“I just thought a lot of those guys tonight out of the nine aren’t doing anything other than PBRs and they are already in over their heads already and it shows. They aren’t stepping up. It is like they are a little stagnant with their riding.”
It is a bold move by Dunn, but he has high hopes for Hamilton. He has been following the youngster’s progress since Hamilton first came to his ranch for advice and coaching in 2015 prior to the Junior High School World Finals in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I wanted to get a bit of knowledge from him,” Hamilton recalled. “I was able to get to Troy and get on his bucking barrel. He shared a few things with me and then as the years went on I got to know him more. I was sending him videos of my riding and in the last 12 months I was going up there and getting on bulls with him. Getting him to watch my videos and help out with the training and all that sort of stuff.”
Dunn used to rodeo some with Hamilton’s father, Michael, who was a saddle bronc rider, and Dunn still remembers how impressed he was by Ky’s serious approach to the sport of bull riding.
“I didn’t know a bit about him, but his dad said he was real serious about it,” Dunn recalled. I said, ‘Well bring him out,’ and I put him on the bucking machine at first, and he was really serious about it.
“I could tell right away.”
Hamilton went on to finish the Junior World Finals in 15th place out of 106 riders. Last year, Hamilton finished ninth at the Youth Bull Riding Finals in Abilene, Texas.
The 6-foot bull rider is headed to Odessa College in Texas to compete in college rodeos beginning in August.
“I have taught a lot of kids over the years,” Dunn said. “I have had a lot of schools and kids come and go. He just really reminded me of (three-time Australian national champion) Tim Wilson. I never saw someone so disciplined.”
Hamilton and Paton join six-time PBR World Finals qualifier Lachlan Richardson, PBR Australia leader Aaron Kleier, 2017 PBR Australia champion Troy Wilkinson, 2016 PBR Australia champion Cody Heffernan, 2015 PBR Australia champion Fraser Babbington, No. 25 Nathan Burtenshaw, No. 52 Cliff Richardson, No. 44 Justin Paton, No. 72 Bailey Woodard, No. 95 Budd Williamson, No. 113 Ethan Watts and No. 207 Bradie Gray on the team.
Mitchel Paton has only competed in five PBR Australia events this year after missing nine months following reconstructive left shoulder surgery last year.
“Yeah I am fairly surprised,” Paton said. “I just got back from a local rodeo and was crawling into bed,” Paton, who finished in third at the Moranbah rodeo. “This is the pinnacle. I had been out hurt and I have been riding good since I have been back but I still had a lot of points to make up.”
Paton, 27, is 4-for-10 this year and 92-for-248 (37.1 percent) in his eight-year career.
Hamilton admits there will be some nerves in Sydney, especially when he sees World Champions like Jess Lockwood, Cooper Davis and Guilherme Marchi in the building.
“Oh yeah. It is a pretty big deal to ride against all of those fellas, and I am sure I will learn a lot from them as well,” Hamilton said. “All the World Champions and stuff. I am sure that will be good for me. Hopefully I can go out there and do my best and get a few bulls rode for the team.”
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