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(Photos) ‘Casper Masters’: Casper golfer prepares for Special Olympics USA Games in Florida

Shane Rogers gets a fist-bump Mike Ogden after Shane sank a shot from across the green during a practice game on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at the Casper Municipal Golf Course. The team will represent Casper with Team Wyoming in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games next month in Orlando, Florida. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — Shane Rogers wasted no time warming up on the putting green at the Casper Municipal Golf Course on Wednesday while his golfing partner, Mike Ogden, checked out their golf cart.

“I feel pretty good about it,” Shane said about his playing. “I’ve been golfing every week, so it’s been going pretty good.”

Shane, 53, has been competing with the Special Olympics for nearly 40 years. He found out earlier this year that he’d been picked to represent Team Wyoming in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, to be held in Orlando, Florida, from June 5 through June 11.

“I didn’t realize what was going on until I was told, and I was pretty excited when I found out,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun day just being around all the Special Olympics guys and getting to know everybody.”

Special Olympics athlete Shane Rogers tees off during a practice game at the Casper Municipal Golf Course. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

“There’s a good chance I could come back with the trophy,” he adds.

His team partner, Sgt. Mike Ogden, is a longtime Casper Police Officer and will spend the entire week with Shane.

“I’m gonna be worn out when I get back,” Ogden said, which would be hard to argue against while watching Shane’s endless energy on the golf course.

With a light breeze, sunny skies and comfortably warm temperatures, it was one of those rare spring days that one could describe as “perfect” in this area. Shane and Mike know the staff and other players well. Shane strikes up a conversation with a beverage cart attendant before buying himself a Dr. Pepper. He munches on sunflower seeds as his partner takes a turn.

Shane Rogers chats with a beverage cart attendant at the Casper Municipal Golf Course. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

The duo is a bit rusty early on. Mike is using a new driver for the first time, and Shane says he’s working on his stance.

Shane brings up Florida after Mike accidentally hits a ball into the water. “I’m staying away from the water in Florida,” he said. “They’ve got gators there.”

Soon enough, cobwebs fall away and the team hits their stride.

“You saved our butts again,” said Mike after Shane sinks a putt. The two exchange fist bumps along with words of encouragement.

They still don’t have a team name, however, which comes up early in conversation and evolves into brainstorming sessions between holes.

Mike Ogden, left, and Shane Rogers take turns driving the cart during the team’s practice run at the Casper Municipal Golf Course. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

Shane has lived in Casper most of his life, he said. He works at Albertsons and lives with his stepmom, and has a sister in Glenrock. The Special Olympics gives him an outlet for his energy and competitive spirit, but he says he mostly enjoys the people.

Bobby Casey, vice president of Programs for Special Olympics Wyoming, says a delegation of 45 people will be traveling to Orlando for the event. Teams will be staying at the Disney resort, arriving on June 4 and leaving on June 12. The games and opening ceremony will be broadcast by ESPN and ABC networks, Casey said.

“There’s no cost to any coach, athlete or unified partner,” he said. “Special Olympics Wyoming covers everything from transportation to room and board to uniforms.” The cost of the trip will total up to $70,000, which is covered by donations and corporate sponsors.

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everybody involved,” Bobby said. “To see these athletes train and compete, and advance not just from the local level but to a state level, and then to showcase their talents nationally, it’s just an amazing opportunity.”

“They’ve earned it for sure,” he said.

Midway through Shane and Mike’s practice game, Shane makes a thrilling shot from the edge of the green. The ball zips and sinks with certainty, and Shane falls to the ground with joy.

After more fist bumps, Shane suggests “Casper Masters” as a team name.

“Casper Masters it is,” Mike said.