Eric Evans Photography
FILE: The final round of the 2019 PAC12 golf championships at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Oregon on April 24, 2019.

Utah’s Kyler Dunkle came in as the No. 79-ranked golfer in college golf but finds himself near the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship following a 3-under-par 69 Friday at the Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Dunkle is tied for second place with Arizona State’s Chun An Yu, Stanford’s Isaiah Salinda and Oklahoma State’s Austin Eckroat behind Cal’s Collin Morikawa, who birdied four of the last five holes to finish with a 5-under-par 67. It was a tough day on the golf course as only 11 players in the 156-player field broke par in the opening round, while 104 golfers shot 76 or worse, including 34 who shot over 80.

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The Colorado native, who just concluded his senior season at the U., has played well for the past month, finishing second at the Pac-12 championships in Oregon behind Morikawa and a tie for sixth at the NCAA Regional at Stanford.

Dunkle played the front nine in 2-under-par with birdies at holes 2 and 5. He went to 3-under with a birdie-2 at the 225-yard par-3 13th hole, but made his first bogey at the 14th hole. He then went birdie-bogey-birdie, the latter with another 2 at the par-3 17th hole to finish with a 35 and a 69.

The second and third rounds will be played Saturday and Sunday when the field will be cut to the low 15 teams and top nine individuals not on an advancing team.