A handsome 6 ½-year-old Labrador Retriever named “Mully” didn’t need any Mulligans to win the 2017 National Amateur Championship Stake in Mondovi, Wisconsin. Instead, NAFC-FC Mulligan Off The Rainy “T” relied on sheer talent and smarts to perform flawlessly through 10 challenging land and water tests and top 138 of the finest retrievers in the nation.

“Mully is a very strong National dog, and his marks kept getting better and better throughout the trial,” says Randy Spangler of Mondovi, who owns the stylish retriever along with his wife, Mary, and who handled Mully to the National win in his hometown. “He was pretty high at the start and a little crazy on the line, but he continued to build and perform. What a thrill to do it here.”

In addition to Mully’s win, the Spanglers’ 5-year-old FC Hyflyer’s Life In The Fast Lane (“Crash”) was one of 14 National Amateur Finalists and gave Mully some stiff competition. “I am very proud of both dogs,” Spangler says. “It was hard for me to say which one did better in each series, but Mully is far more experienced and it was his time.”

The Spanglers acquired Mully as a 2-year-old from Julie and the late Tom Kobach, a friend and fellow Wisconsin field trialer.

“I actually judged Mully at the Madison Derby and Qualifying trial,” Spangler says. “Mully won that derby and placed at the qualifying trial, and right then and there I knew he was special. Tom really focused on the Derby dogs and wasn’t planning to run Mully in the all-age stakes. I told him, ‘This is a one-in-a-million dog who deserves the opportunity to compete at the all-age level.’ Tom agreed and said, ‘Why don’t you just buy him and you can run him.” So Spangler did.

At age 3, Mully won the second amateur stake he ever competed in and later qualified for the 2014 National Amateur. He went nine series in that National Amateur, nine series in the 2014 National Open for professional trainer Wayne Curtis of Fox Hollow Retrievers in Mondovi. Mully was a Finalist in the 2015 and 2016 National Amateurs and went eight series in the 2016 National Open.

Julie Kobach was at this year’s National to see Mully win and celebrate the victory with the Spanglers.

For Randy and Mary, it was a dream come true. The Spanglers became involved in the sport in the late 1990s after their two children went away to college. “We were empty nesters and Mary actually wanted something to nurture and develop, so we got a yellow Labrador for her to train and run hunt tests,” Spangler says. “Pretty soon I decided to get my own dog. In 2003, we got our first field trial dog and made him a Field Champion and Amateur Field Champion – FC-AFC HyFlyer’s Ramblin’ Rebel. We still have Rebel. He’s 14.”

Spangler credits Wayne Curtis and the team at Fox Hollow Retrievers for being an excellent coach and mentor. “Wayne has gotten me and my dogs to where I’m at today. There are a lot of good dog trainers, and to be a great trainer, you need to be a great people trainer. As far as I’m concerned, Wayne is the best in the world at teaching people. If you listen to Wayne and if you take your licks and learn, he’ll teach you how to be a better handler and competitor.”

Wayne Curtis returned the favor and says, “Randy and Mary have been great students of the Fox Hollow program. They respect us as friends and understand the ups and downs that go along with this game. That’s a true friendship.”

As for Mully, Curtis says the talented retriever has always been an excellent flyer marker and loves to play the game. “When Mully cocks his head, that’s where he’s going. You can rely on it. He’s animated but very solid on water. We’re thrilled for Randy, Mary and Mully,” Curtis says.

Spangler says he’s always fed Purina to his dogs. “The Purina Pro Plan Performance dog food is fantastic, and Purina’s support of our sport is unbelievable.”

Of the 14 Finalists, 13 are Purina fed-dogs, including the winner – Mully.