Native American Lemieux ‘feels at home’ playing FireKeepers event

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  • FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship – Friday-Sunday at Battle Creek Country Club

Gabby Lemieux is one of them.

She is the first and still the only Native American professional golfer to play on the Epson Tour.

It’s an honor she clings to with pride, especially when she attends an event hosted by the FireKeepers Casino Hotel, which is owned and operated by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi.

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“The support I’ve received has always been truly amazing from Indian Country,” Lemieux said. “Being the first, hopefully not the last, I try to inspire others and hope to be a light for the Native American community.”

Lemieux was part of the 144-player field that kicked off Friday at the ninth annual FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship at Battle Creek Country Club, a stop on the Epson Tour, an LPGA development tour.

Gabby Lemieux watches her putt at Battle Creek Country Club in the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship.  Lemieux is the only Native American professional golfer to play on the Epson Tour.

Battle Creek and the FireKeepers event have always meant something special to Lemieux. It was there that she made her first cut on the professional tour and where she first met FireKeepers Casino Hotel CEO Kathy George, who gave her a tour waiver spot several years ago. years because of their shared Native American heritage.

“I’ve always played well here and since it’s a tribal casino, I feel at home,” Lemieux said. “It’s always nice to see Kathy George again too. I really admire her and what she’s accomplished. We talk quite often and just having that kind of person in my life is pretty spectacular.”

The admiration is mutual.

“So proud of Gabby to have her here to be an example to all young Native Americans is amazing,” George said. “With FireKeepers belonging to the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, it’s really important to us to not only really grow the game of golf, but to grow the game for Native Americans.

“I myself, being a Seneca and a Mohawk Indian, doing this is also something close to my heart.”

Gabby Lemieux, left, the only Native American to gamble on the Epson Tour, with FireKeepers Casino Hotel CEO Kathy George.

Lemieux, who golfed at Texas Tech, is a member of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, who grew up in Idaho. While at Texas Tech, she was ranked #1 in the nation and was the Big 12 Player of the Year.

She has sponsorship through Nike N7, which celebrates cultural game changers, and has strong ties to Notah Begay, one of the only Native Americans to play on the PGA Tour.

“She’s such a phenomenal woman and through her work with Nike N7 and Notah Begay, she brings so much to the game from her unique perspective,” George said. “And, once you get to know her, she’s one of the sweetest, kindest people ever. Plus, she’s a really good golfer.”

This showed when the 25-year-old qualified for the 2022 US Women’s Open at Pine Needles Golf Club.

Although Lemieux is happy to talk about her Native American heritage, golf is her main focus most of the time.

Gabby Lemieux lines up a putt at Battle Creek Country Club in the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship.  Lemieux is the first Native American professional golfer to play on the Epson Tour.

“People don’t really know my background and that’s great,” said Lemieux. “I mostly use golf as a platform and just be who I am to show people who I am, whether it’s Native American, or the first on the tour, or whatever. I just want people to know me as a person. But I’m very proud of who I am as a Native American.”

Bill Broderick can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @billbroderick.

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