Senior Spotlight: Joel Johnson’s love for golf will never fade

by Dylan Greene
Sports Editor | May 13, 2020 1:00 AM

Editor’s note: This article is part of a recurring series on local high school athletes who had their seasons cut short or canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

SANDPOINT — Have you ever been so obsessed with something that you think about it nearly every second of every day? Joel Johnson has that problem when it comes to golf.

When Joel picked up a golf club about seven years ago, he hit a great shot and was immediately hooked. Now he wakes up most mornings thinking about what he can do each day to improve his golf game.

“He lives, eats, breathes and sleeps golf,” Sandpoint golf coach Michael Deprez said about Joel. “He wakes up and I’m sure his parents have conversations with him about there being something more in this world other than golf.”

Joel’s mom, Cari Johnson, sees his obsession for the sport on a daily basis.

“Golf is his absolute love and passion,” Cari said. “He pours every ounce of himself into it.”

Golf is in the blood of nearly every member of the Johnson family so Joel learned the basics of the sport from them. But the rest he has taught himself by watching countless YouTube videos, reading golf magazines, obsessing over the newest equipment or technology and getting tips here and there from people he has played with over the years.

Cari said swinging a golf club came naturally to Joel but the work he put into mastering the game on his own time was amazing to see. Cari said at their previous home they had 10 acres of land and Joel would grab a bucket of balls and hit off a mat even if it was snowing outside.

Cari said Joel can come home after nearly every round of golf he plays and recount every shot he hits. Cari compared it to a young kid giving a vivid description of their favorite cartoon or movie.

Deprez said Joel is not only self-taught but he is self-motivated. Deprez joined the SHS coaching staff when Joel was a sophomore and immediately saw someone with a lot of potential.

“His swing is just poetry in motion,” Deprez said. “He’s got great rhythm, great sequencing in his golf swing.”

Joel has stuck with golf through thick and thin and shied away from focusing on other sports because at the end of the day, if you screw up on the golf course you only have yourself to blame.

“In other sports, there is always different excuses for why it’s not your fault,” Joel said. “In golf, it’s always your fault ... but at the same time when you hit the shot you want or you sink the putt or you bomb a drive 300 yards down the middle, that was all you, that was nobody else.”

By playing golf, Joel has learned how to control his emotions and not let little mistakes prevent him from achieving his goals. It has also helped him put life in perspective.

“There’s the saying, ‘play the ball as it lies,’ and I think that’s something I’ve learned about life is playing it as it lies,” Joel said.

When the season was canceled, Joel was crushed. He was hoping to culminate his four year career on the SHS golf team with a district title and a trip to state after missing out on the tournament the past two years by one stroke. Despite the disappointment, Cari said her son has remained positive over the past two months and hasn’t stopped playing the sport he loves.

Joel played golf six times in eight days last week and has been spending plenty of time on the course with his best friends and teammates Harley Wilks and Jaden DuMars. Joel said he was very close friends with DuMars and Wilks prior to joining the golf team, but their bond has become much stronger due to the sport.

“Now it’s more of a brotherhood than a friendship and honestly that’s what I’m going to miss most about high school golf,” Joel said. “I’ll miss the tournaments, I’ll miss the competition in the air when you get their early in the morning ... but most of all I will miss the boys.”

Cari said Joel is an outgoing person who has never been afraid to strike up a conversation and build a relationship with a stranger he is paired with on the golf course. Cari wishes Joel could’ve spent these last few months of his high school career enjoying long bus rides with his teammates but she and her husband, Barry, are proud of the person he has become.

“We’ve just been really proud of how he handles himself and how he treats others,” Cari said. “It’s a joy to watch him do something that he really loves.”

Besides golf, Joel enjoys bass fishing and duck hunting. After he graduates from SHS, Joel will head to the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies to potentially become a pastor or minister in the future.

Joel said he wouldn’t be where he is today without the support he has received from his family and he can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

Deprez said Joel always went above and beyond on what was asked of him while on the golf team and he was looking forward to watching him shine as a leader this season.

Deprez said Joel reminds him a lot of himself because of the passion he has for the game of golf. Deprez said that passion, excitement and commitment to golf was contagious amongst Joel’s teammates.

“The thing that he sprinkled out there, kind of like Johnny Appleseed, was his enthusiasm and love of the game,” Deprez said.

In his own words: Joel Johnson

“The Sandpoint High School golf team will be something I will always remember and miss. I will miss the tournaments, the competition and the hard work, but most importantly I will miss the people. This team has become like a family. We laugh, make jokes, and have certain traditions that must never be broken (like McDonald’s before every tournament). I will miss this family so much and I am so thankful for the impact they have all had on me. A special thank you to coaches Mike Deprez and Tom Tharp. You both have taught me so much and I am so thankful for both of you. Also a huge thanks to The Idaho Club, The Links and The Elks for letting us play for free to help develop our game.”