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Heupel accepts scholarship offer from Judson
East Union High senior Devan Heupel signed her letter of intent to play for Judson University Friday in front of parents Janet and Jim Heupel, from left, athletic director Eric Simoni and golf coaches Brian Goulart and Ron Gutierrez. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
East Union High’s girls golf team had a fifth former player in the last two years sign a letter of intent to continue her athletic career at the next level Wednesday.

It’s not Jackie Ketner, the Valley Oak League’s reigning Most Valuable Player and the 2009 Bulletin All-Area Girls Golfer of the Year. Her time, coach Brian Goulart suspects, will come.

Ketner did, however, play a role in sparking an interest in the sport for senior classmate and friend Devan Heupel, who signed a letter of intent to play for Judson University in Elgin, Ill.

Heupel joins graduated standouts Krystal Clark (Fresno State), Lindsay Shoot (Cal State Monterey Bay) and Brionna Goulart (Simpson University) and fellow senior Tori Souza (Simpson Universiy) on the list of recent girls golf collegiate signees out of East Union.

One of her elder sisters, Casey, a 2005 alumna of Sierra High, is her school’s first student-athlete to sign a scholarship to play collegiate golf. Casey played at McKendree College in Lebanon, Ill.

A longtime swimmer, Heupel figured that her competitive athletic career would end this spring.

“They don’t have a swim program (at Judson) — it’s kind of cold there anyway,” he said. “I thought (sports) was just going to be more of an on-the-side thing in college.”

Having been on the volleyball, basketball and swim teams as a junior, Heupel was already on pace to earn the Golden Order of the Lance Award, one of the school’s highest honors that recognizes student-athletes who participate in varsity sports in five of the six seasons over their final two years of eligibility.

But she decided to drop volleyball and wanted to try another sport over the fall season, and it turned out to be her ticket to a partial athletic scholarship for a National Association of Interscholastic Athletics school.

“I wanted to play another varsity sport, and I am not good at tennis at all,” Heupel said. “So my friend Jackie Ketner was kidding around one day, saying, ‘Hey, you should go play golf with me.’

“I went out there over the summer and just started messing around a little bit, and she was like, ‘You’re not that bad. You really should go out for the golf team.’”
East Union claimed the VOL championship and its fourth straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title this past fall, but rarely were Heupel’s contributions factored into the team scoring.

The team’s depth often made her the odd girl out when it came to the starting six in dual and tournament competition, so her signing to play golf in college with less than a year’s worth of experience may come as a surprise.

But not to coach Goulart, who says that Heupel would crack the starting lineup on most other teams.

“There were many nights when she was the last person to leave the range, and that shows her character,” Goulart said. “How many kids are going to be the last to leave when they know the next day there are going to be six people playing ahead of them? And because of her hard work we decided to reward her by letting her play in a few regular-season matches in league.

“She deserved that, and she deserves everything that is coming her way. I am just so excited for her.”

Heupel applied to attend Judson for its architecture program, and she found out that the school started its women’s golf program this past fall when head coach Chris Watson contacted her.

Heupel is as serious in improving her golf skills as she is pursuing her chosen career path. She is a two-time gold medaist in the Skills USA Regional competition and won the Architectural Civil Drafting Contest on Engineering Day at Delta College Wednesday.

“It’s going to be a hard four years because it’s very demanding,” she said. “There’s a lot of studio time and a lot of extra classes that we have to take. At the same time I have to improve a lot on my golf game.”