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Top Dogs and Handlers Honored in Lexington, Ky.

Purina Awards — 2016-2017

Aug 01, 2017
Top Shooting Dog Award Winner. From left: Lora and Dr. Tom Jackson, Shawn Kinkelaar with Chelsea’s Thunder Bolt, George Hickox and Dr. Debbie Ozner. [Photos by Melissa Miller.]

Bluegrass Country, home of the finest thoroughbreds anywhere, was a fitting location for the “thoroughbreds” of the bird dog sport — dogs and handlers — the weekend of June 23-24 in an equally fitting setting: The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, Ky.

The winners in the all-age arena were recognized Friday evening, June 23, and their counterparts in the shooting dog game were honored the following evening, June 24.

The Purina Awards were held here three years ago (2014) and were well received with overflow attendance, which prompted a move to a more spacious hall this year, which also saw large crowds both evenings.

The first Top Dog Award program was held in the 1963-64 season, and that was the Top All-Age Dog Award, now in its 54th year. Over the years Purina assumed sponsorship of the Top Shooting Dog Award, having completed its 35th season, then the Top Handler Awards (all-age and shooting dog), No. 29. Then initiated the Top Amateur All-Age and Shooting Dog Awards, and the Top Derby (all-age and shooting dog) Awards.

Each season, as was the case in 2016-2017, competition for these Awards is keen, and often goes down to the wire before a clearcut winner emerges.

Friday evening was focused on the All-Age Dogs. Dunn’s Tried’N True, owned by Rita and Will Dunn of Lebanon, Ky., won the 54th Purina Award, the granddaddy of all the Awards.

Iowa owner Larry Smith was a repeat winner of the Purina Amateur All-Age Award, having secured that honor in 2016 with S F Bandwagon, and in 2017 with pointer female S F Mapleleaf. Larry and Linda’s grandson Colton joined  his grandparents for the occasion.

Pendy’s Good Grace, attractive pointer female, wrapped up the Derby Award for owners Matt Pendergest and his dad Jim. Grace traveled far and wide during her Derby season to win these accolades, much farther than her Lexington, Ky., owners.

Luke Eisenhart won his fifth All-Age Handler of the Year Award for 2016-2017.  His mother and father, Chris and Rick Eisenhart, and his grandmother and grandfather, Arlene and Merv Eisenhart, were on hand to share in son and grandson’s achievements.

Additionally, his grandmother Mae Tracy was also in attendance.

Saturday evening was devoted to the Shooting Dog Awards.

Securing top honors as Shooting Dog Award winner was Chelsea’s Thunder Bolt, handsome pointer male owned by George Hickox and Dr. Tom Jackson. Both owners were on hand, George Hickox and friend Debbie on their way back to Bismarck, N. D., from wintering in Georgia, and Dr. Tom Jackson and his wife Lora with a shorter drive from Columbus, Ind.

Thunder Bolt’s breeder, Brad Sadler of Chelsea Plantation, Ridgeland, S. C., came for Saturday’s festivities.

Bolt’s handler, Shawn Kinkelaar, won Top Handler honors. Shawn’s mother Carol Kinkelaar of Bloomington, Ind.,  and his brother Brad came from California to share the evening.

Amateur Shooting Dog of the Year was Sugarknoll War Paint, owned by Peter and Chris Del Collo of Pamplin, Va., and Allen R. Linder of Livingston, Tenn., and handled by Brian Sanchez.

This was a back-to-back win of this Award for War Paint, which also won the Top Shooting Dog (Open) for his owners for the 2014-2015 season, handled by George Tracy to those honors.

Tom Brigman of Rose Hill, N. C., owns the Top Derby, Harbor City Sure Shot, handled by Matt Basilone. Tom also owns the second dog in the Derby standings, Harbor City Papa Spam, also handled by Matt. Tom and his wife Pamela and handler Matt and wife Miranda came with their daughters for the weekend.

As noted earlier, Purina’s involvement with the Awards program dates back to 1963, when the inaugural Award was initiated for the top all-age dog of the season.

Tex Faucett was the initial Purina representative, followed by Louis Pegram, then George Cook. Bob West had a short tenure with the Awards program before moving up the ranks, and he secured the services of Pat Lamantia. Bob West retired in 2015, and Pat soon after.

Karl Gunzer assumed Bob West’s role with Purina, and Greg Blair that of Pat Lamantia. The seamless transition of Purina management has enabled the Awards program to continue smoothly.

Field reps Jim Smith and Terry Trzcinski also play a significant role in representing Purina and both were on hand for the weekend, as were  Senior communications specialist Kayla Miller and ace photographer Melissa Miller.

Of special note are the efforts of Gail Inman to the annual Purina Awards programs, ensuring their success. With her steady hand on the tiller, it is smooth sailing each season.

There is a cash award for the handler of the Top All-Age and Shooting Dog of $2500. If the handler has been a member of the Purina Pro Club during the six months preceding, that amount is doubled to $5000. Both Luke Eisenhart and Shawn Kinkelaar received a check in that amount. Both Luke and Shawn were also honored as the season’s Top Handlers and the $2000 monetary award was doubled to $4000 for each handler.

Owners of the Top Dog Award winners receive handsome oil paintings of the winners by noted artist Ross Young, and customized plaques that commemorate the Award.

Management of the Purina Awards for the pointing dog segment, as it has since 1963, rests with the Purina Awards Committee. Current members of the Committee are: Sean Derrig, Chicago, Ill., Freddie Epp, Marion Junction, Ala., Torben Hansen, Lompoc, Cal., Dr. Dorwin Hawthorne, Inola, Okla., (emeritus); Mike Husenits, West Lebanon, Pa., Dwight Smith, Norwood, N. C., and Rick Stallings, Mathews, Ala. Corresponding secretary is Mark Johnson of Winnebago, Ill. Mike Luebke of Reeseville, Wis., tallies points for the Shooting Dog Awards.

Any and all decisions pertaining to the Awards program rests with the foregoing Committee members.

The Awards program in Lexington was memorable. Thoroughbred Center Manager Jim Pendergest had the weekend festivities well planned. He arranged for a larger banquet room than the one used in 2014 when the Awards festivities were held here.

His foresight was confirmed when every table both Friday and  Saturday evenings was occupied to near capacity.

Among the many guests noted was the venerable Dewey Mullins, erstwhile manager of the then named Central Kentucky WMA (now Miller Welch), near Berea, Ky. Vernon Vance, a mainstay of Kentucky field trials, was among the guests, as were Pam and Buster Tucker.

Mike Crouse and his daughter Mary Sue Schalk also represented the Kentucky contingent over the weekend, as did Rob Butler, a five-time co-owner of Purina Award winners Elhew Sunflower (twice) and Elhew Swami (three times).

Former Kentuckians Jim and Judy Cohen, now residing in Florida near Lake Okeechobee, attended the festivities both evenings. The Cohens have the  unique distinction of owning two Purina Award winners — a shooting dog winner and an all-age award winner! Their Heritage’s Premonition won the all-age honors for the 1981-1982 season, and their Foxfire’s Rhea won the Shooting Dog Award for the 1992-1993 season. Fred Rayl handled Premonition (which won the 1982 National Championship), and George Tracy handled Rhea.

Among the long distance travelers to the Awards weekend was Jeff Haggis whose drive time from Glencoe, Ontario to Lexington was some nine hours. Dr. Terry and Marilyn Terlep were here from Boston, Ga., affiliated with a nearby thoroughbred farm.

Bob and Karen Reed, originally from Upstate New York, came from Gettysburg, Pa., and Claudia McNamee  arrived from Waubac, N. Y., and Maureen and Kevin Joyce from East Northport, N. Y. Bill and Daretta Bruchey were on hand from Fort Deposit, Md., and Sammy and Nida Giddens and Earl and Margaret Drew represented the Tar Heel State.

Margie and Bill Ricci came from Pamplin, Va. The Riccis are the proud owners of Awsum in Motion, the first setter to win the demanding Continental Championship since 1958  when Kilsyth Storm Jerry was named champion.

From  Alabama was Brian Peterson, owner of Lester’s Prime Poison Lane, the 2013-2014 Purina Amateur Shooting Dog Award winner.

Georgia attendees included Trish and Joe Rentz, whose Rentz’s Fire and Ice won the Top Shooting Dog Derby Award for 2015-2016. Also from

Georgia were Winnie Jean Rayl (handler Fred Rayl’s daughter) and Michael Martino. Winnie Jean and Michael were married about a year ago.

The Buckeye State was represented by Al and Christine Mannes of Oregon, Ohio, and Wisconsin by Jerry Moisson and Mike Luebke.

From nearby Southern Illinois were Diane Rakers and Peter Coppens, the twosome involved with the National German Pointing Dog Association which holds its major stakes in the spring at the recently developed field trial venue (Denmark side) at Pinckneyville, Ill. German Shorthair enthusiast Tom Oswald came from South Carolina.

The Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America began holding its annual meetings in conjunction with the Purina Awards weekend some seasons back and it has proved to be a beneficial arrangement for both entities.  AFTCA trustees attending the meetings span a wide geographic range, north, south, east and west, and their attendance adds a nationwide aspect to the weekend.

Purina Awards Committee Meeting

At approximately 3:30 p. m. Thursday afternoon, June 22, the Purina Awards Committee meeting was called to order by Chairman Sean Derrig in the conference room at the The Thoroughbred Center, Lexington, Ky.

Committee members present were: Sean Derrig, Torben Hansen, Mike Husenits, Dwight Smith, Rick Stallings, and corresponding secretary Mark Johnson. Also in attendance were representatives from Nestlé Purina: Messrs. Greg Blair and Karl Gunzer. The American Field Publishing Company was represented by Messrs. Bernard J. Matthys and Bernard B. Matthys. Absent was committee member Freddie Epp.

Mr. Derrig opened the meeting with introductions and an overview of his discussion with Mr. Epp who had previously advised that he would not be attending this year’s meeting for personal reasons. Mr. Epp also indicated that his future participation would most likely be limited. Mr. Derrig then reviewed the policy of this committee to remain closed due to the confidential nature of individual club business as it pertains to Purina points applications and their business, as well as maintenance of an overall privacy protocol.

Nearly three (3) dozen agenda items were reviewed including: a package submitted by shooting dog points tabulator Mike Luebke, 20+ club applications for points consideration as well as requests for changes in management and/or changes in venue.

Additionally a bonus points review was carefully considered along with a discussion and ratification of the 16-dog minimum requirement.

For the coming season, Purina Bonus points shall be awarded to the winners at following Championships:

Continental Championship — 300

National Championship — 500

National Free-for-All Chmp — 300

Quail Chmp Invitational — 300

(180 to runner-up if named)

Southern Championship — 250

Winner of the International Endurance Shooting Dog Championship shall receive 100 bonus points.

New forms to be used for clubs applying for Purina Points consideration and a change in venue request were reviewed and approved.

Considerable discussion occurred concerning Purina Points reporting protocol in light of the number of clubs which did not report results for the 2016-2017 seasons. Special notices on this will appear in The American Field periodically during the coming season reminding all to report trial results in a timely manner and to whom. A time limitation for clubs to report was established at 45 days from the last day the event was run to ensure that published results are up to date and current for all contestants to see. Trials reported later than 45 days will lose consideration for Purina points recognition.

Each of the above topics, including individual club applications, will be handled one on one by the committee, or as an individually addressed item published in The American Field.

As touched upon earlier, the Committee revisited their concern in the shortfall of clubs reporting (to Mr. Luebke) and in particular for Amateur Shooting Dog trials/championships during this past season. Open Shooting Dog reporting, also to Mr. Luebke, did not reflect the same degree of shortfall.

Reporting of All-Age points results, both amateur and open, to The American Field is running smoothly.

The committee carefully discussed and remained staunch in its view: “That along with being granted Purina Points status a club or championship also assumes the obligation and responsibility for the smooth running and timely reporting of event results.” This includes reporting that a trial was not held (for whatever reason) and reporting of trials that attracted less than 16 dogs. Failure to report such information will seriously jeopardize the club’s privilege as a Purina Points trial.

The committee ratified that for the upcoming 2017-2018 season Purina Points must be reported in the same fashion as last year. Open and Amateur All-Age trials will continue to be reported to The American Field using the Form for Essential Data. Open and Amateur Shooting Dog trials will be reported to The American Field in the normal fashion and must ALSO be reported (via a scanned, picture text message, or mailed copy of the Form for Essential Data) to Purina Points tabulator Mike Luebke.

AFTCA member club stakes/championships must further be reported to Ms. Piper Huffman for appropriate consideration and recording.

Summary comments were provided by The Chair and by Purina regarding the awards program and management of same going forward. The meeting was adjourned at approximately 7:35 p. m.

Respectfully Submitted,  Mark N. Johnson  Purina Points Committee  Recording Secy.

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