Next year, senior Kyler Dunkle will close out his time at the University of Utah with his fifth year of college golf. It is still far from the end of the sport for this Ute.
Dunkle, who has been playing golf his entire life, has always planned on playing professionally. For Dunkle, college is a safety net.
“Degrees are important,” Dunkle said. “Pretty much every college athlete is going to want to play professionally after they’re done, but you always kind of need a plan B, so for me, that would for sure be a degree. This way, I can get a job in case golf doesn’t work out.”
It has been far from easy to find the balance of athletics, school and a social life, what Dunkle refers to as the three keys of college.
“You want to do well in your sport because that’s why you chose the school you’re going to,” Dunkle said. “You want to do well in the classroom because that will help you get your degree, and you also want to do well on the social side because that’s how you are able to build friendships that last throughout college and past college.”
It is a balance many people struggle to find.
“Sometimes that can all be really overwhelming for athletes [who] struggle with one, two or maybe even all three of those,” Dunkle said. “Sometimes it’s easier to get rid of one and focus on two and generally speaking, the athletics part is the easiest to get rid of.”
Looking at the incoming freshmen, Dunkle remembers the lessons he learned from upperclassmen in the past. Utah alumni Justin Mortensen and Gentry Hicks are two athletes who Dunkle marks as his inspirations for becoming the player and man he is today.
Mortensen taught him the importance of being social in athletics. Through friendship, Dunkle has made lifelong friends and resources in the sports world. Hicks, on the other hand, showed him what ironing out each little detail can do.
“[Hicks] kind of showed me the importance of what everyday activities do when you do them correctly and how they can amount to more success,” Dunkle said.
Dunkle has found friends and success in college athletics, but he knows it is not easy. The trick, Dunkle says, is to stay patient.
“Sometimes it’s really easy to get frustrated with simple things,” Dunkle said. “When you do that it starts to spiral and sort of build to something more. It affects you in seeing what your end goal is because you are so focused on some of the details.”
This is the advice Dunkle hopes to pass on to the underclassmen he wants to inspire: stay patient and understand the perspective on life they can gain from focusing on these three things.
After five years of college, two at Colorado State and the final three at the U, it will be time to pursue his professional goals. Becoming a professional athlete is difficult, something Dunkle isn’t oblivious about. Dunkle’s father played college golf at the University of Northern Colorado, and Dunkle believes his father would have continued his athletic career if the barrier to professional entry was just a bit lower.
The beginning of a professional athletic career is full of challenges and low income. Dunkle hopes he will be able to lean on those who believe in him to help carry him through his future.
“A lot of that is trying to find people who are willing to support you through the process,” Dunkle said. “Whether that’s your family or people you meet throughout college or just potential investors.”
Using skills he has learned from his business classes, Dunkle is already forming a game plan.
“That’s really how most people get started — by meeting the people and trying to get their support so that in the beginning they’re able to pay for rent, pay for food, pay for travel, all that kind of stuff,” Dunkle said. “Kind of develop a business plan with those people saying, ‘If you invest this in me, this is what I’m going to do to pay you back.’”
Dunkle plans to pay back investors with his winnings plus interest. With the helpful hand of the public, Dunkle can achieve his dream of playing professionally.