CHEYENNE – Ethan Cates and Blake Danni spend hours together in the practice areas at the Cheyenne Country Club. They also play golf rounds together frequently.
Despite their friendship, they were high school rivals, with Cates attending Cheyenne Central and Danni teeing it up for Cheyenne East.
The teens will get to be teammates for the first time when the Junior Americas Cup starts Monday at Blackhawk Golf Club in Edmonton, Alberta.
“I’m very excited to be on the same team as him instead of playing against him,” said Danni, who was a two-time Class 4A state champion. “We play together almost every day during the summer, so this tournament could be a lot of fun.”
The Junior Americas Cup features four-man teams from Alberta, Arizona, British Columbia, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Mexico, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. California is broken into Northern California, Southern California and San Diego. Mexico has two teams.
Cates and Danni will be joined on Wyoming’s team by Thermopolis’ Hardy Johnson and Riverton’s Parker Paxton.
Danni hopes his experience playing in last summer’s Junior Americas Cup helps him this year.
“I wasn’t used to playing under pressure,” he said. “You have to get used to having to be under par, and having must-make putts. I wasn’t trusting my lines on the green in the first round.
“The next two rounds, I trusted my lines and started making more putts and played well. I just have to keep doing that.”
Danni split top honors in the amateur field at the Tyrrell Wyoming State Open on July 14. The future University of Northern Colorado golfer also split sixth at the Wyoming State Amateur Championship in late June.
“I am playing pretty well right now,” Danni said.
Cates got his own taste of high-level golf when he played in the IMG Academy Junior World Championships at Torrey Pines Golf Club in La Jolla, California. Cates was 22-over-par after three rounds and missed the cut for the final round. He calls the experience a positive one.
“There is no better experience I could have had than going to that tournament,” said Cates, who split second at the Wyoming State Am. “I got way better in just the one week I was there. The competition is crazy.
“I realized how on top of your game you have to be to compete at that level. The golf here is good, but that was an entirely different level.”
Cates – who will be a senior at Central this fall – has wanted to play in the Junior Americas Cup since he heard about Cheyenne East grad Quintin Pope and Cheyenne Central alum Jared Edeen qualifying for the event during their high school days. Talking to Danni about his experience last summer only solidified his desire to represent Wyoming this year.
“This is a pretty big tournament,” Cates said. “Having the experience of Junior Worlds under my belt is only going to help me. I’ll have been in an even bigger situation than that, and I should feel pretty comfortable.”