After seven years of last-place showings, Ute golfers finish in the top half of the Pac-12 field

Ute senior Kyler Dunkle ties for second individually.

(Fairways Media/Jesse Dodson) University of Utah golfer Kyler Dunkle, shown in the 2018 Utah State Amateur, finished second individually in the Pac-12 tournament, concluding Wednesday in Eugene, Ore.

Utah’s golf program no longer is permanently last the Pac-12. For the first time in the school’s eight years of conference membership, the Utes rose above 12th place in the Pac-12 Men’s Golf Championship — and jumped into the top half of the field.

Utah tied with host Oregon for fifth place in the 72-hole event that ended Wednesday at Eugene Country Club. Ute senior Kyler Dunkle finished second individually.

Midway through the final round, the Utes stood fourth and Dunkle held the lead. Dunkle made three bogeys on his second nine, falling behind the eventual winner, California's Collin Morikawa, as his team dropped slightly in the standings.

Even so, the week was a major breakthrough for the Utah program in coach Garrett Clegg's third year. The Utes finished ahead of No. 6-ranked USC, among other teams, and were only eight strokes behind No. 2-ranked Arizona State.

“We all know that we haven’t played well historically at the Pac-12 Championships, and so to play solid all week was a big deal for us,” Clegg said.

In addition to the high finishes of Dunkle and Tristan Mandur, who tied for 16th, Utah got solid contributions throughout the lineup in a format that counts five of six scores in each round. That support was vital Wednesday, when Dunkle slipped to a 2-over-par 73 after having shot 70-64-69. The Utes also counted Mandur’s 73, 74s by Blake Tomlinson and Mitchell Schow and a 76 by Axel Einarsson. Utah had started the day in a tie for sixth.

Dunkle, the runner-up in last year’s State Amateur, began the final round one stroke behind Morikawa. Starting on the back nine, Dunkle birdied Nos. 11 and 13 to take the lead, then bogeyed Nos. 14 and 15. He birdied No. 17, before bogeying Nos. 2, 5 and 7. His pars on the last two holes enabled the Utes to remain in a tie for fifth with Oregon at 31 over par.

Morikawa, the NCAA's No. 2-ranked player, birdied the last three holes to win medalist honors by four strokes, posting a 12-under-par total.

Stanford won the team title by seven strokes over UCLA, shooting 7 under par. Cal placed third, another stroke back.