FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (WBKO) --- Billy Tom Sargent’s first NCAA Championship round in WKU Hilltopper Golf history was one to remember.
It also has him in the hunt to make some noise.
The redshirt senior Sargent was tied for the lead for much of Friday’s morning session and finished his opening round tied for sixth following a 1-under 71 – just four shots off the lead.
“Today, I just wanted to stick to my game plan and start off solid to get into the rhythm of things,” Sargent said. “I had a slow start with a couple of early bogeys but really bounced back and had a solid stretch of holes where I played really good. My wedges and putting were pretty good today for the most part, which led to a few birdies in the middle of my round.”
Sargent is four shots back of the leader, California’s Collin Morikawa, and just two strokes back of three players tied for second at 3 under.
Of the 72 players in the field ranked in the top 100, Sargent is ahead of 65 of them, including 14 in the top 20.
He’s tied for fourth in the entire tournament with five total birdies after the first day at the par-72, 7,550-yard Blessings Golf Club. He’s also tied for fourth in par-3 scoring at 1 under.
After going even over most of the front nine, Sargent birdied three of four holes as he made the turn, eventually climbing to 3 under with his fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 12th.
That tied him for the individual lead, a position he held for much of the morning until dropping to 1 under with bogeys on Nos. 16 and 18.
It was the best round by a Conference USA player in the NCAA Championships since 2016.
Sargent will tee off at 2:22 p.m. CT Saturday in the second round.
He’ll once again be in a group that includes host Arkansas’ Julian Perico, who also shot 1 under Friday and brought some hometown excitement to the round, according to Sargent.
“I stumbled a little bit coming in with a couple of back-to-back three-putts, then hit in the hazard on 18 but managed to make a really good bogey,” Sargent said. “I feel good about my game. … It was a really cool atmosphere today playing with Julian from Arkansas. There were probably 50-60 people following our group all day, which was nice to hear some applause on good shots and putts. Our whole group today played well and we all fed off of each other all day.”