LAS VEGAS—True freshman Ty Dunlap’s 4-under 68 paced a strong Texas A&M showing on Friday at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, one which has the Dunlap and the 15th-ranked Aggies both two shots back of the lead after the first round of play at Southern Highlands Golf Club.
Facing the strongest field college golf will see this season outside of the NCAA finals, A&M carded an even-par 288 and is in third place behind leader and 10th-ranked California (286, -2) and host and 11th-ranked UNLV (-1). The 15-team Collegiate Masters field features four of the top five teams in the country, five of the top 10 and 11 of the top 25 overall.
“I’m just really pleased with the way we played today,” head coach J.T. Higgins said. “This course is set up about as tough as I’ve seen it, which really makes it a challenge and tests every part of your game including attitude and mental toughness. We feel like we have a great game plan for it, and the guys stuck to it as well as I’ve ever seen in our group--especially considering the fact that we have three guys who have never even seen the course before. So for them to trust in us and execute the game plan the way they did was just fantastic.”
Playing the par-72, 7,510-yard course for the first time in his career, Dunlap birdied the first two holes and added three more on the back nine. After posting one bogey all afternoon, the Aggie freshman is in second place—two shots back of Texas Tech’s Logan McCracken (66, -6).
“There have been a lot of first-team All-Americans that have shot 80 their first time on this golf course, that’s how difficult it is,” Higgins said. “For Ty to come out and shoot 68 the first time he ever sees it shows the kind of talent he is. He was focused and hit some great golf shots today—it was really fun to watch. It shows what he can do against an elite field on an elite golf course, and before his time is done at A&M I think he’s going to be a truly great player.”
Three other Aggies sit in the top 30 through the first round of play. All-Americans Cameron Peck and Jordan Russell are in 23rd at 1-over 73, while Greg Yates (74, +2) is one shot back in 29th. Geoff Shaw, playing as an individual, fired an opening round 79 (+7) with Jade Scott (80, +8) rounding out the A&M contingent.
On the team leaderboard, the Aggies sit above four top-five teams through the first 18 holes of play. No. 5 UCLA (+3) is in fourth place, followed by No. 1 Texas (+4), No. 3 Alabama (+4), No. 12 Stanford (+4), No. 25 Florida (+5), Texas Tech (+5) and TCU (+6), No. 16 Duke (+9), No. 4 USC (+10), No. 24 Oklahoma State (+10), New Mexico State (+18) and Arizona State (+22) round out the field.
Texas A&M is back out on the course Saturday morning with tee times starting at 9:30 a.m. (PT). Live scoring throughout the weekend can be found on golfstat.com and aggieathletics.com, and fans can also follow the action with updates via twitter at @AggieMensGolf and @SHCollegiate.
“For all the good things today, we still made plenty of mistakes,” Higgins said. “We did a lot of great things but we also gave a lot of shots away that we didn’t necessarily need to do. We’re going to correct those things tonight and hopefully just get better as the week goes on.”