Story & Photos by Haley Humphrey
The moving trucks’ tires crunched on gravel as they came to a halt in the Lemieux’s driveway in Newalla. The workers began unloading boxes as Anita and John Lemieux instructed them where to place them in the house. They watched as their 20-year-old’s furniture was returned to where it came from, swept inside with the brisk December 2017 wind.
After a year and a half, Joseph Lemieux was home, where he would start over again.
The Oklahoma City native traveled to the small town of Monticello, Arkansas to be a member of the Golf team for the University of Arkansas at Monticello in 2016.
In a whirlwind of what seemed like last-minute madness, Lemieux’s father, John, made calls and sent emails to coaches everywhere, while Lemieux spoke with a friend who went to Moore High School and was now on the UAM golf team. He explained to him how his first university choice, East Central University, discontinued their golf program four months after he signed with them because of financial cutbacks. Lemieux’s friend then made a phone call to the head coach at UAM, which was Heather Wall at that time. Wall analyzed Lemieux’s potential and liked what she saw, making a spot on the team for him solidified.
Relief swept over the Lemieux family after weeks of stress. They could all finally breathe again.
Lemieux explained that in retrospect, he should have handled the situation more appropriately.
“I should have been more calm and confident in God’s plan,” Lemieux said.
His faith in God has always been a prominent aspect throughout his life, especially in his athletic career. Lemieux’s spiritual foundation is attributed to his family, who keeps Christianity close to their hearts as well.
There was no question that Lemieux’s faith would be tested.
Within a week of arriving at his new home in Monticello, Wall quit. The Coach had just experienced a loss of one of her family members and traveled to Florida, her home state, where she stayed and later accepted a job offer. The UAM team was left to dry out. Thoughts of their program ending arose as well.
Lemieux had yet another “well, crap” moment, while his father was infuriated. Their family was forced to hold their breath once more.
“Oh, well come down here and the same thing might happen,” Joseph Lemieux chuckled.
With the connection of events the criminal justice major has been through in his life so far, he has developed a humorous outlook to coincide tough situations.
To his and his teammates’ surprise, Kristin Ingram filled Wall’s head coach position, but Lemieux never bonded with Ingram as he had with Wall.
However, Lemieux soon began to grow accustomed to Monticello’s quaint domain and he was off to a great start, placing sixth out of 45 in his first tournament as a Boll Weevil-- UAM’s mascot. He also made terrific friendships with his diverse teammates. Getting along with others has always been natural for Lemieux.
“[He] has an ability to lighten the mood with his weird sayings and noises,” Tony Merrell, Christian Heritage Academy Head Football and Golf Coach, said.
While he had no trouble navigating UAM’s campus for his classes, Lemieux grew to loathe driving to practice each week. The school’s golf course was an hour away and by the time he would get out of class, the sun would be setting.
To add to the dismay of practices, Lemieux felt stuck in the small town, physically and spiritually. He was beginning to lose his drive to play the beautiful game. His father shared how Lemieux no longer had any desire to play golf, and accredited it to him not completely moving on from Wall’s abrupt withdrawal.
Though he attended the Baptist Collegiate Ministries’ Thursday night gatherings, Lemieux also did not have any inclination to grow in his spiritual walk with Christ. He felt the lingering pain of depression, despite knowing that God was always with him. Some of his teammates and friends shared his weariness. When Lemieux ventured to drop the news of his departure from UAM, his friends were thrilled and exclaimed how lucky he was to leave.
Lemieux had contemplated thoughts of transferring for months before deciding to pack his bags, which he discussed with his father. John Lemieux deliberated over the idea of his son coming home and supported it wholeheartedly. Lemieux was prepared for his son to change his mind; he saved money for Joseph’s future endeavors. While Lemieux was ready to transfer as quickly as possible, he figured he would wait to finish his second year at UAM until moving to begin his junior year at the University of Central Oklahoma. However, it was his father who initially suggested the immediate transfer during winter break of the 2017 fall semester.
Channeling the mindset of the 2017 Thunder MVP, Russell Westbrook, Lemieux said, “why not?”
His family was ecstatic, especially his father, who was devastated to see him leave the first time but was understanding of his journey. John Lemieux explained that when their family traveled to UAM to unload their son’s luggage, he cried for about an hour. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Anita Lemieux was excited for her son’s new adventure; her first born was leaving the nest.
Lemieux has always been a “momma’s boy.” He described a moment when he had just returned home, and was not even motivated enough to leave his bedroom and make a sandwich to stifle one of his late-night hunger strikes. He grabbed his phone, sent a quick text to his mother, and seconds later received a sandwich made just the way he likes it. Lemieux blushed as he shared his appreciation of his mother’s graciously serving personality.
Lemieux is grateful of his family’s encouraging presence in his life. They are the ones deserving of praise for always being there, rain or shine.
It was John Lemieux who introduced his son to the athletic arena.
“He was the one who propelled me into the sports life,” Lemieux said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without my dad pushing me to be active.”
At 4-years-old, Lemieux played t-ball and soccer. When he hit age 10, he began flag football, and little did he know at the time, he was embarking on the golden sport in his father’s eyes.
As Lemieux entered the realms of high school at Christian Heritage Academy, he narrowed down his top three favorites: Football, baseball, and golf, all three of which he would exceptionally shine in.
“Joseph is an outstanding young man. He was a fierce competitor that worked hard to improve himself as a player and person,” Merrell said.
Though he has the charisma of a natural athlete, Lemieux worked hard for his talent, driven by the encouragement of his father.
“Anything he’s ever put his mind to, he’s accomplished,” John Lemieux said.
He played football and baseball throughout middle school and high school, leaving golf toward the end of his time as a Crusader at CHA.
Football was the most strenuous. Lemieux’s position was running back, where the money of all touchdowns lies. While his father and fans enjoyed Friday Night Lights, Lemieux was beginning to become worn down with the strains the sport induced.
“If I had gone to play football in college, I would have had to have knee surgery,” Lemieux noted.
His parents expressed how their son carried a burdening load from football. John Lemieux revealed there were nights he would wake up to check on his son to ensure he was still breathing.
Although the Crusaders did not win any championships during Lemieux’s rein on CHA’s Football team, he has fond memories with his teammates.
Football teammate Spencer Lindsey enjoyed having Lemieux as his running back.
“He was a great teammate and great friend. I remember he always used to include the younger guys and was someone they could look up to,” Lindsey said.
On his weekends where he would visit home, Lemieux would attend his alma mater’s games to cheer on the younger boys. His mother and his younger sister, Megan, would also be present on occasion; however, it was difficult for John to bring himself to go back to the field where his son was a superstar.
During his sophomore year, the 2A CHA Football team battled Davis in the playoffs. The atmosphere was frozen that night, but the Crusaders gave it their all. Within the last 10 seconds of the game, Davis scored, taking the win home. However, Lemieux remembers it as a special highlight because it was “sweet and salty.” The game was the most fun, but still stung.
The running back received All-State Honorable Mention his senior year and was called to play the position for OBU’s Football team in Shawnee. Lemieux also garnered a scholarship to play center field for baseball in Pittsburg, Kansas. While he enjoyed playing baseball up until his junior year of high school, Lemieux did not have the strong feelings for it as he did to play golf.
Many people believe that an athlete cannot compete well in baseball and golf at the same time, because the body mechanics do not correlate with one another.
“We dispelled that theory,” John Lemieux said.
The only issue Lemieux encountered with the two sports was his coaches wanting him to choose one tournament over the other, since the seasons ran together at times.
Soon, Lemieux disconnected from baseball and it was the era of golf. With every swing, Lemieux grew to love golf more than he anticipated he would. The sport was relaxing and did not cause him to overexert his body, especially his knees. When he was not practicing with his teammates, he was outside on his family’s property in Newalla, launching golf ball after golf ball toward the empty, expansive fields across the street (he ensured that cars fully drove past before swinging; remembering: Safety first).
“Joe is one of the most competitive people I have ever met, yet kind-hearted and very nice at the same time. He wants to win and strives to perform the very best that he can,” Nic Rankin, CHA golf teammate, said. “The thing that I enjoyed most about playing golf with him was his ‘flow’ going around the golf course. If he misses a putt or hits a bad shot, you will know how upset he is by watching him, and it is hilarious!”
The hard work paid off because Lemieux experienced his first Oklahoma State Championship his senior year. He celebrated it with his teammates on his Instagram account, saying it was a “good way to end high school,” and thanking “God for the ‘W.’”
No matter where Lemieux is at in his life, he continuously gives all the glory to God, for the wins and losses.
Though he returned home with the mindset of playing golf at his transfer university, UCO, Lemieux is not on the team … yet. Lemieux has discussed a position on the UCO Golf team with Josh Fosdick, Head Coach of the golf program, who has been helpful in organizing Lemieux’s priorities. Lemieux explained if he plays well over the summer, Fosdick hinted that a spot on the team may be open for him.
“It’s anybody’s guess as to if that’s guaranteed or not,” Lemieux commented. “I’m not going to sweat it.”
UCO’s golf program has increased in standings among other institutions, but its team is larger than the norm, which is typically 10 players, creating a problem for Lemieux.
However, it is nothing that Lemieux cannot handle. His current training is preparing him for the summer tournaments Fosdick talked about.
Since he has been home, Lemieux has worked at the Lincoln Park Golf Course. When he is not maintaining the club’s golf carts, he is practicing on the course until the sun ceases to give him light.
“He’s on fire again, I can see it,” John Lemieux said.
Lemieux applied to 10 regions, with his golf resume included, to be extended an invitation into a National Amateur tournament. The tournaments, which range across the U.S., are extremely competitive and expensive, but Lemieux has remained firm in his faith.
His ambition to play professional golf will continue to grow.
“Whatever happens, is what God wants to happen,” Lemieux concluded.
No matter what adversity brings in Lemieux’s direction, he will face it, with God on his side.