American Field

Purina Awards

Top Dogs and Handlers from 2018-2019 Recognized
Jul 15, 2019
Top Shooting Dog Award Winner Hale’s Southern Touch with, from left: Kay Daugherty, Dianna and Lydia Hale, Dr. Jeffrey Hale and Melanie Hale. [Photos by Melissa Miller]

Music City — Nashville, Tennessee — was the locale for the 2018-2019 Purina Awards presentations, and the Sheraton Music City Hotel was the site.

Top dogs and handlers — all-age and shooting dog — were formally recognized the evenings of June 21 and June 22, bringing the just-completed field trial season to a close.

It was a gala weekend combining the Awards program and the meetings of the Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America whose attending trustees added wide geographic representation — north, south, east and west.

Friday evening was devoted to the All-Age Awards, — the time-honored Top Dog Award soon to begin its 57th year of competition, the Amateur All-Age, Top Derby and the All-Age Handler of the Year.

Saturday’s festivities focused on the shooting dogs — also Top Dog, Amateur Shooting Dog, Derby, and Handler of the Year.

All in all, the weekend was a fitting conclusion to a successful field trial season.

In the all-age category, the Top Dog Award was the 56th to be awarded and the winner, Dunn’s Tried’n True, joins an elite group of winners that have secured this Award twice, among them Riggins White Knight, Flatwood Hank, Whippoorwill’s Rebel, Brush Country Spectre, Silverwood and Lehar’s Main Tech. Dunn’s Tried’n True also won the Purina Top Derby Award for the 2014-2015 season.

Handler Luke Eisenhart was also in the winner’s circle for the sixth time as All-Age Handler of the Year Award winner. He’d earlier won Shooting Dog Handler of the Year honors for the 2016-2017 season. His father Rick and grandparents Merv and Arlene Eisenhart were on hand from Pennsylvania for the festivities to celebrate with Luke. And Luke’s cousin Mike Tracy attended the Friday evening’s all-age festivities also.

Newcomers to the Awards program were Dogwood Kennels owners George and Cindy Watkins of Boston, Ga., whose Dogwood Bill claimed the Top All-Age Derby Award, handler Jamie Daniels guiding Bill to his points-earning placements. Ben and Jessica Stringer from Dogwood Kennels represented George and Cindy Watkins at the Awards Jim and Matt Pendergest of Lexington, Ky., are two-time winners, the first with Matt’s Pendy’s Good Grace as the season’s Top Derby for 2017-2018, and this season with Dialed In, the season’s Top Amateur All-Age Award winner.


Handler Kinkelaar enjoyed double honors on Saturday evening, the first as the season’s Top Shooting Dog Handler Award winner, his fifth reception of this honor, and as the handler of the Top Shooting Dog Award winner, Hale’s Southern Touch, owned by Dr. Jeffrey Hale of Russellville, Ark.

Shawn Kinkelaar also has the distinction of handling the season’s Top Shooting Dog Derby, Silver W Jill Z, pointer female owned by Dr. Debbie Ozner of Ochlocknee, Ga.

Tom Brigman, formerly of Maryland, now North Carolina, was back for the third time, in Nashville with the Top Amateur Shooting Dog Award winner, Waybetter Billy. Tom enjoyed the same distinction back in 2006 with Arcanum’s Ballerina, and also in 2017-2018 with the Top Shooting Dog Derby, Harbor City Sure Shot, a “trifecta” for Tom Brigman.


Reaching the Awards weekend for dogs, owners and handlers is a significant milestone for all who work hard during the field trial season, competing in the best of competition to earn points toward the respective awards.

Members of the Purina staff, notably Karl Gunzer, Greg Blair, Gail Inman, Jim Smith and Terry Trzcinski, play a significant role in the success of these season-ending celebrations.

Karl Gunzer commended Greg Blair for his efforts on behalf of the bird dog and field trial community. Greg, in turn, spot-lighted Gail Inman who handles a myriad of details to ensure these Award programs come off faultlessly.

Greg Blair was accompanied by his daughter Maddie who attends trials with Greg when school permits.

Terry Trzcinski, joined by his wife Kathie, and Jim Smith with his wife Connie are important contributors as well. Add two lovely young women from Purina’s PR staff — Kayla Miller and Melissa Miller — and a first-rate, first class team is assembled.


Many seasons ago, the Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America held its annual meetings in March in conjunction with the AFTCA flagship stake National Amateur Quail Championship. With Purina’s generous support of the AFTCA, the date for the AFTCA meetings was changed to be held the same weekend as the Purina Awards presentations, and it has proved to be a very good decision.

AFTCA trustee membership covers a wide geographic representation, from the East Coast to the West, North and South, as well as Canada. Trustee attendance adds a well-rounded coterie of field trial fans.


Among the notables in attendance were John and Anna Russell and Jim and Barbara White of Bowling Green, Ky. Linda Crouse of Dixon, Ky., wife of the late and lamented Jim Crouse, graced the proceedings.

Pat and Linda Sheehan of Jacksonville, Ill., representing the Prairie State, were joined by Sean Patrick Derrig, his wife Eryn, daughters Nuala and Aisling, and sister Maeve.

Rick Eisenhart, Luke Eisenhart’s father, and his grandparents, Merv and Arlene, were on hand from Pennsylvania. Luke’s mother, Chris, was at home with her mother, Mae Tracy. Both have attended these awards regularly.

Professional handlers included Mike Tracy, on hand from Pennsylvania Friday evening to celebrate with his cousin Luke Eisenhart, the season’s Top All-Age Handler and handler of the Top All-Age Winner, Dunn’s Tried’n True. Tommy Rice came from Pavo, Ga., and Ike and Marty Todd from West Tennessee. Fred Rayl arrived from Sylvester, Ga., and Larry Huffman from Michigan City, Miss., joining his wife AFTCA Secretary Piper Huffman.

Carl Owens arrived from South Carolina for the weekend. His Derby setter had a commendable season. North Carolina was represented by Sammy and Nida Giddens. Cecil and Holly Rester made the trip from Angie, La., and Jay Lewis arrived from Missouri for the weekend.

West Tennessee was also represented by Charlie Frank and Pat Bryan, and William and Tommi Smith, Amy and Bubba Spencer, winners of the Purina Amateur All-Age Award with Cocklebur Treasure Quest in 2014.

Judges for the 2019 Continental Derby Championship Reid Hankley of Thomasville, Ga., and Joe Rentz with wife Trish joined the weekend festivities from Brooks, Ga. Claudia McNamee of Atlanta and Chris Mathan of Boston, Ga., added charm and grace to the festivities.

Dan Stewart has provided Shawn Kinkelaar with summer training grounds for more than two decades. Dan and Jackie joined Shawn in celebrating his Awards. This was Shawn’s tenth Top Shooting Dog Award, and as handler of the 2018-2019 Top Shooting Dog Derby, he’s handled eleven Award winners to these premier honors.

Purina generously supports the field trial pastime all season long and caps its support by hosting these Awards. The generous cash purses ($2500 for the Top Dog, and $2000 for handlers) are doubled when the handler is an active Pro Club© member. The Awards weekend is a high water mark of the field trial season for owners, handlers and guests who come to celebrate with the winner.

Another field trial sponsor during the season is Garmin whose representative Rehan Nana attended his first Awards weekend, each of the winners receiving a Garmin product.



MEMBERS of the Purina Awards Committee met June 20, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.

The 2019 Purina Awards Committee’s (PAC) annual business meeting was called to order at 5:45 p. m. as scheduled by Chairman Sean Derrig.

Committee members present were: Chair Sean Derrig, Corresponding Secretary Mark Johnson, Rick Stallings, Torben Hansen, Dwight Smith, and Mike Husenits.

Also in attendance were representatives from Nestlé Purina: Messrs. Karl Gunzer and Greg Blair. The American Field Publishing Company was represented by Mr. Bernard Matthys.

Mr. Derrig opened the meeting noting the contributions of dogs, handlers, owners and clubs who made the 2018-2019 field trials season a success.

Mr. Derrig then called for a moment of silence for longtime committee member Freddie Epp who passed away during the prior year. Freddie’s contributions to the bird dog community and to the Purina Awards Committee will be missed by all.

Of note during the 2018-2019 season the Purina Awards group tracked results from 597 events covering all-age, shooting dog, and Derby, in both amateur and open categories as well as open and amateur handler categories to arrive at the winners and top performers, dogs and handlers/owners.

Being able to accurately track and report results in each of the award categories for this vast group of events is no small task and reflects the dedication and commitment of many, many club officials and event chairs, the work of Mike Luebke (Shooting Dog Awards points tabulator), the dedication of The American Field team to track all-age performances, and to the PAC for program oversight.

Without question the PAC and all involved in the Purina Awards program extend thanks and gratitude to Nestlé Purina for their enduring and top caliber backing of the program.

This year’s meeting included twenty (20) agenda items, ten (10) of which were requests for changes/additions (new requests) or deletions of Purina Points trial status.

Of note the formal application form process is facilitating the Committee’s ability to act upon new club requests for points status.

Following are items discussed in order.

Form for Essential Data: As all know this is the key document used for reporting trial results to The American Field, to the Open and Amateur shooting dog points tabulator Mr. Mike Luebke, and to Ms. Piper Huffman of the AFTCA.

The committee discussed and agreed that certain enhancements to the existing form were in order and work was planned on a revised format of this form. For the immediate future all should continue to use the current form until such time that the new and updated form is broadly distributed and made available to everyone.

Non reporting clubs/championships: Regrettably, this topic was again an agenda item for the PAC to review.

During the past season there were a number of open and amateur trials for which the results failed to be reported, a smaller group of which have not reported results for the past two seasons. Letters will be sent to those clubs (5) which have failed to report results for two years suspending their status as an approved points trial, and a probation letter will be sent to those clubs (16) which failed to report results during the past 2018-2019 field trial season.

Once again the committee remains firm 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 attract less than 16 dogs.

Results for Open and Amateur All- Age Awards points trials once again reported 100% compliance.

The 16 dog requirement: As in the prior two years, this topic was again carefully reviewed. The committee unanimously agreed to retain the 16- dog entry minimum requirement for a Purina Points stake.

In the event of a tie: The committee discussed having a policy pertaining to a situation where a points tie resulted at the end of the year. The new policy will determine THE category winner based upon significant wins as reviewed and agreed upon by the committee.

Naming judges for the Purina Points stake in field trial advertisements carried in The American Field:

Recognizing the premier status of approved Purina Points trials and championships, the committee discussed and agreed that advertisements should include the names of judges who will adjudicate each stake. TBD judge designations are unacceptable.

Running Orders: Again in the interest of holding high standards for approved Purina Points trials and to mitigate against any errors, it will be expected that the full Field Dog Stud Book (FDSB) name appear on running orders following a club’s public drawing.

Restatement of event reporting expectations: Shooting Dog (Open and Amateur) Form for Essential Data to:

Mike Luebke ( and to The American Field; additionally, AFTCA member club results go to Piper Huffman.

All-Age (Open and Amateur) Form for Essential Data to the American Field. AFTCA member clubs also report all-age results to Piper Huffman.

Results are to be sent within 45 days of the trial’s conclusion. Individual letters will go to each club that completed an application for Purina Points outlining the committee’s response to their request. Additionally the roster of approved trials, as published in upcoming issues of The American Field, will reflect newly approved points trials/ classics — championships for the 2019-2020 seasons.

Summary comments were provided by the chair and by Purina leadership regarding the awards program and management today and going forward. The meeting was adjourned at approximately 7:10 p. m.

Respectfully submitted,

Mark N. Johnson,

PAC Recording and

Corresponding Secy.

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