Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Winning Ways

This Texan seems to have the Midas touch and it extends to his involvement in dogs and horses. He also prefers to be hands-on as much as possible; the only reason he wasn't in attendance to watch his dog, Willie, perform for the final two days of this year's National Open was because he was in California and then Mexico on business with Tiger Woods...but more on that in a moment.

Originally from Wichita Falls, Brady grew up in the sporting life. At seven he was given his first horse, at ten his first bird dog; his granddaddy on his mother's side was heavily immersed in fly fishing and bird hunting way back in the 30s and exposed young Brady to these outdoor wonders. Eventually, he migrated to bigger and better bird dogs and cutting horses, engaging trainers Hoppy Hopson with a myriad of dogs and Paul Crumple with the same in horses. A number of wins and championships followed, including Texas State Dog of the Year five years running and an Invitational winner; his cutting horse wins include the prestigious Augusta Futurity of which I'm quite familiar.

A move to Austin altered his lifestyle as a shortage of quail gave way to duck hunting. As sons Connor, now 20 and a National Championship Sporting Clays winner, and Jack, now 17, clamored for action, Brady traveled to England and invested in British Labradors, importing sixteen or so dogs...But then he became acquainted with field trial dogs and began to pursue that interest in earnest.

At his first field trial in Wichita Falls, pro trainer Dave Rorem caught his eye and Oman hung around while Rorem fed and watered his dogs...and Oman told him he wanted to win the National Championship. A plan was forged and a friendship formed from that acquaintance...the rest is history. When Dave located Willie as a two-year old sale prospect, he called Brady; Oman immediately flew up to watch him train for a few days and the deal was sealed. (Brady did own another dog prior to Willie, a dog named Ace that "might" teach him some aspects of the field trial game--this dog, FC Topflight Eba's Ace of Spades, has won three Opens this year. Brady currently has four young Willie-sired prospects in training also, all with big-time potential. Make note!)

Brady Oman strives to surround himself with people and dogs that have the same desire, heart and passion for life as his own...and considers himself to be fortunate as he's now working with Tiger Woods on a massive golf course complex/project in Mexico. He shares, "Tiger has an uncompromising passion for his sport and will devote everything to achieve his goals...I'm honored to be able to extend my work with this same type of athlete."

What about that golden touch? Arguably, Oman seems to possess that intangible feel, but when you talk to him, other admirable qualities emerge. "A win like this means contributions from many people. This wouldn't have happened without the support of family, the incomparable veterinary help we received for Willie, the expertise of Dave, Paulette and Ty Rorem, and many friends along the way..."


Once upon a time, lil' ole me remembers Rex Carr animatedly conjuring up images of a mighty and legendary dog named Cork of Oakwood Lane. But, other than these colored stories and his name recorded in the record book as 1955 National Retriever Champion, I'd never heard any real life reference to Cork.

Until it came time to interview Dave Rorem for this 2008 National Open win. Our discussion revealed that as a young lad of six or seven, Dave's father drove him from western Minnesota toward Minneapolis to pick up a precocious Labrador puppy promised by Dr. Harold A. Mork. Turns out this doctor owned NFC Cork of Oakwood Lane. While young Dave gazed in awe at the puppies before him, trainer Tony Berger showed Cork to the lad and bent down to look him in the eye...and he said: "Cork and I have won the National Championship--Maybe someday you can do this, too!"

"Pepper" was Dave's first taste of the epitome of a good Labrador. Since then, he's racked up quite a record. Originally also working as a game warden and now retired from that position and training full time, Dave ran his first field trial in 1976 and made his first FC in 1984. In the early 80s he ran his first Canadian National and in 1988 had two finalists. He won the Canadian National Championship in 1989, 1992, 1993 and 1995 and his clients have won the Canadian National Amateur Championship in 1990, 1996 and 2005. He has had a total of 64 National finalists and has made about 84 Field Champions in the US and Canada.

Influences on Dave and his career? Well, notably, Cork made a pronounced impression on him as a youngster, along with trainer Tony Berger and his measured words of wisdom. Dave also credits Cy Sifers, Roger Reopelle, Phil Berger, and more currently, the "two Bills"...those being Bill Sargenti and Bill Eckett, and of course, Rex Carr, who brought him to Sargenti.

Dave shares, "Vickie, as you know, Rex has been the driving force to my training. Of course, I had success before I first went out to Escalon, but I quickly learned I didn't know much when it came to training dogs. He taught me to never stop learning and never stop changing and tuning and adjusting my training techniques...and Rex singled out my daughter, Ty, when she was just a little tyke, and told me to bring out her own gift with the dogs." (Not unlike the Tony Berger influence, perhaps?)

If you read Willie's story, you'll likely be amazed at his steps leading to this National, but I pushed Dave for some tidbits on the course of competition throughout the event. His response: "Due to his limited training, mostly in the water, Willie was rusty on land as the week began. I didn't think he was sharp...he hunted on land...but he improved as we went along. It was kind of like...when Game Day arrived and he got a couple of series under his belt...he dialed in and became focused. Once he started to moan and groan on line, I knew we were okay. And it was really the eighth series, I felt the momentum start to shift to Willie. And he hit the ninth test hard, and of course the tenth was something else...he did it his way."

"Yes, tell us about your new handling technique, selecting a long retired bird off a tight flyer fall?" I teased.

Dave cleared his throat and chuckled, "Well, with that wide flyer on the left [it was shot to the right toward the line to the long bird] I pulled him right and then he zeroed in on that long retired and it was all over. He drilled it and then came back and spanked that flyer. That was all Willie."

About winning? "It's a team effort," says Dave. "I would be the first to say it takes the involvement of many people to reach this pinnacle of the game. Everybody plays a part in the success of a winning dog, from puppyhood, through basics and into advanced training, and then there is the important owner relationship, and with Willie, his rehab's amazing how many people have had their hands in Willie's success."