- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2016

DEL CITY, Okla. (AP) - Last November, Joseph Lemieux sat among family and friends at Christian Heritage Academy, celebrating the signing of his college letter of intent.

They had food, decorations and dozens of photos to remember the joyful moment when Lemieux had cemented his college golf future at East Central University in Ada.

It was the culmination of Lemieux’s hard work on the golf course, in the classroom and on the recruiting trail, where lining up a scholarship spot is a far more tedious process than in major sports.

Four months after that celebration came the phone call that made all the hard work worthless.

East Central was dropping its golf program.

It was a financial cut that multiple colleges have faced around the state because of economic conditions this year. The University of Tulsa cut golf as well. Carl Albert State College dropped its basketball teams.

On East Central’s end, the decision was necessary.

On Lemieux’s end, it was time to panic.

The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1QZFwOC ) reports that the call came on March 11, when he had just two months left in his high school golf career.

He played his final tournament at Lincoln Park in Oklahoma City at the Class 3A state tournament, where Christian Heritage was among the title contenders.

Back in March, there was a time he had to wonder if it would be the end of his golf career.

“I was out on the course when my mom called me about it,” Lemieux said. “I think I yelled, then I just sat there. I leaned over in the fairway, and felt like I was gonna throw up.

“It was shocking to me, because I had never considered it as a possibility. I started thinking, have I just wasted the last four years of my life trying to play golf and get better? Looking back on it, I shouldn’t have reacted so negatively.”

His father, John Lemieux, says he didn’t see his son much over the next couple days. But soon, they began to put the pain behind them and start looking for the next opportunity.

Emails went out by the dozens to any golf coach who might have an open spot.

Of course, by mid-March, most schools don’t have any open spots. The coaches either signed their full class in November, or have lined up commitments to sign in the spring period.

One notable response came back, from Heather Wall, a former LPGA player who was the head coach at Arkansas-Monticello.

She had an opening and wanted to talk to them. Within just a couple days, the Lemieux family was in the car for the six-hour drive to Monticello, in the southern part of the state, about an hour south of Pine Bluff.

“It was a whirlwind couple of days,” John said. “People had been telling us that God had another plan, but it was hard to see it.”

But Wall liked what she saw in Joseph, and he liked what he saw at Monticello.

Wall had to pull a few strings in helping Joseph line up some academic scholarships, because he had missed the school’s deadline for applying. But his 29 ACT score and strong grade-point average helped him qualify, and Wall got his paperwork through on a hardship basis.

Last month, the spring signing period opened, and John Lemieux had a question for his son.

“Do you want the 200 chicken nuggets at your signing ceremony this time,” John said with a laugh.

Without the fanfare - or the snacks - Joseph sat down at his family’s dining room table and signed his letter of intent. Again.

But this time, he believes it’s going to stick.

“I really liked the place from the first time I got out of the car that day,” Joseph said. “Arkansas is such a beautiful place. The school has a great team. I’m really excited to get there.”

And Joseph will be joining his close friend, Jeff Whitson of Moore, who Joseph ironically tried to recruit to East Central back in November before Whitson signed with Monticello.

“It’s so obvious to me that God’s hand is at work in all this, and it has been from the beginning, lining everything up for me,” Joseph said. “It was almost like He was slapping me in the face, saying ‘What are you doing doubting me?

“It all worked out, even when I didn’t think there was any way that it would.”

___

Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com


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