NCAA Championship: Utah individual Kyler Dunkle in contention near top of leaderboard

Utah Men's Golf

NCAA Championship: Utah individual Kyler Dunkle in contention near top of leaderboard

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NCAA Championship: Utah individual Kyler Dunkle in contention near top of leaderboard

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The opening round of the NCAA Championship looks a bit like a Pac-12 shootout as California’s Collin Morikawa leads a foursome of Pac-12 players in the top five.

Morikawa, a senior and a player of the year candidate, rolled in birdie putts on Nos. 14-17 after three consecutive bogeys to finish with a 5-under 67 and a two-shot lead over Utah’s Kyler Dunkle, Arizona State’s Chun An Yu and Austin Eckroat of Oklahoma State. In all, Morikawa made nine birdies on a course that saw the scoring average at 76.98.

Dunkle, playing in the morning wave, rode a hot putter to his opening round 69. He needed just 26 putts on the par-72, 7,550-yard Blessings Golf Club layout.

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“It was a really fun but stressful day,” said Dunkle.”I had to rely heavily on my putter and thankfully my putter returned the favor. I know that if I can clean up some of my wedge shots and keep the putter hot, tomorrow should be fun as well.”

Dunkle, who is from Larkspur, Colo., is playing this week as an individual, which he also did at the NCAA Stanford Regional. As a team the Utes came up short for postseason play finishing No. 72 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, missing out on an at-large bid. He advanced to finals after a T-6 in regional play.

For the year, Dunkle has two wins, both coming in the fall season. However, he did come to Arkansas with three top 10s in his last four starts, including a second-place showing at the Pac-12 Championship.

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“It was a great first day for Kyler,” said Utah coach Garrett Clegg. “Kyler drove the ball great today and only missed two fairways. He also had a fantastic day on the greens. It was fun to watch him roll a few birdie putts in as well as the key par saving putts that kept his round going.”

Dunkle may have a had a little extra knowledge as well.

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“In our practice round we were paired with Julian (Perico) from Arkansas and learned a lot about how to play the golf course from him and the Arkansas coaching staff,” added Clegg.

He played alongside Perico in the opening round, as well. The Razorback freshman from Lima, Peru, finished with a 1-under 71.

It’s only one day, but for now Dunkle can enjoy it.

“It feels really good to see my name high on the leaderboard, but I also know that there are a lot of good players around me and I have to be mistake free over the next couple of days if I want a chance at the end of the tournament.” 

Second-round action from the Blessings begins Saturday morning, with the first tee time at 6:50 a.m CT.

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