Western Amateur Championship – Illinois, USA

The Western Amateur has been a prestigious national tournament since its founding in 1899. Many of the great names in golf have won the Western Amateur. Many more have competed in the championship but were unable to conquer the gruelling test that is the Western Amateur.

156 invited players come from across the globe to play one of the toughest formats in amateur golf. They play 18 holes of individual stroke play on the Tuesday and Wednesday after which the field is cut to the low 44 scores and ties. Those remaining play 36 holes of individual stroke play on Thursday to determine the low 16 finishers. The "Sweet Sixteen" then compete in Match Play on Friday and Saturday to determine the champion.

The Western Amateurs' Sweet Sixteen have tuned out to be quite an elite group in the golf world. Over the years, Sweet Sixteen members have accomplished the following….

  • 22 major championships since 2000
  • 15 PGA Tour Player of the Year awards since 1990
  • 4 FedEx Cup titles
  • 13 events on the 2014-15 PGA Tour Schedule
  • 5 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year awards since 1990
  • 9 participants in the 2015 Presidents Cup
  • 7 of the top 20 on the PGA Tour career money list
  • 11 of the last 20 US Amateur Champions

Nick was invited to play in this tournament which was held between the 31st of July and the 5th August at the Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, Illinois.

Nick and his former Iowa State teammate Ruben Sondjaja made the "Sweet Sixteen" finishing tied for 3rd on 11 under after 72 holes. Nick played Dylan Perry first up and won the match 5 and 4. Unfortunately Ruben got beaten by Derek Bard – if he had progressed to the next round he would have been playing Nick. Nick then played Derek and unfortunately went down 2 and 1. Derek would then lose in his semi final match to the eventful winner Norman Xiong who had also finished at the top of the leaderboard after 72 holes.

In Nicks own words……….

The coolest thing about my week at the Western Amateur was my mindset. I entered the event with minimal swing thoughts and progressively played more and more freely as the week went on. My mindset was more about seeing how good I could play imperfectly rather than my usual attitude of seeing how close to perfect I could play. This was evident in my quarterfinal match against Derek Bard – I snap hooked a 2 iron into a tree and it kicked into the fairway. Instead of being annoyed with my second shot on a par five and trying to figure out what went wrong, I got up to the ball and hit a low nipper wedge to 9 feet and drained the putt for a birdie. I didn't care how I made the birdie, I cared that I made the birdie.

I hit 79% of my fairways. As the week went on my driving did get more and more scrappy but I managed it well and went to my go to shots when things weren't going so well or when I was under pressure. All in all it was a successful week and I have a good action plan for the next few weeks in terms of working on the inconsistent or not as mentally strong and resilient parts of my game.


Playing in the Pro-Am

Skokie Country Club

Skokie Country Club is a private country club in Glencoe, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Founded in 1897, it features a 7091-yard 18-hole course.

In 1843, President John Tyler granted, through purchase, a large tract of land to a man named Marcus Gormley. In 1897 a piece of the property was purchased by a group of Chicago businessmen who had come together to form a golf club.

The land stood atop a ridge and overlooked a broad oak savannah plain and in the distance, a wetland area. This portion, known as the “Skokie”, probably got its name from a Potawatomi Indian word for swamp or marsh. From this came “The Links of Skokie Country Club”.

There have been 4 course layouts here.

The first, designed by a member, had 9 holes. All that remains today is the small pond on No.18 and the routing of No. 8.

In 1904, the members hired Thomas Bendelow to design an 18 hole course. An acclaimed architect in his day, it should be noted that he also designed Medinah No. 3 and Olympia Fields Nos. 1 and 2.

Skokie is known as a “Donald Ross Course”. The legendary designer came to Skokie in 1914. With his signature “fore bunkers” 20 to 30 yards short of the green, lofted shots to mounded greens were promoted.

In 1922 Skokie was chosen to host the U. S. Open. Called the “National Open” at the time, a first-ever admission fee of $1 was charged. With the best golfers of the day including Walter Hagen, John Black and Bobby Jones, it drew 15,000 spectators, the largest crowd in Open history to that point.

A 20-year-old former caddie named Gene Sarazen won the tournament with a birdie 4 on the par 5 18th hole.

At the Skokie Centennial in 1997, Mr. Sarazen stood on the 18th green to address the membership. Standing on the terrace, on the slope down from the clubhouse and extending out to the putting green were most of the club’s 300 members. They were dressed in formal attire to pay homage and listen to the man who had meant so much to Skokie Country Club and who had become a legend in the history of the game. Emotion was palpable.

With the sunset at his back, Mr. Sarazen stood up to the microphone, “My grandfather won the U.S. Open here in 1922.” When the laughter passed, the 95-year old champion continued -“Boy, the trees sure have grown!

In 1938, the Club acquired land adjacent to the lagoons in the southwest “footprint” of the course. That land and real estate transactions in the north section enabled a substantial reworking. The architectural team of William Langford and Theodore Moreau were hired. Fresh from their “masterpiece” at Lawsonia Links in Green Lake, Wisconsin, they redesigned much of the layout with respect paid to the integrity of Mr. Ross’s intentions. With the exception of some modifications by the firm of Rees Jones in 1981, the current course is much as Langford and Moreau left it in the late 1930’s.

In 1999, the membership overwhelmingly approved the engagement of Mr. Ron Prichard to update the course. His extensive experience as a Donald Ross disciple was impressive and work began immediately. Mr. Prichard redesigned the greens and bunkers to the original Ross specifications and oversaw the removal of trees of poor or insignificant value. The result is classic Donald Ross.

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Trans-Mississippi Amateur Championship – Kansas, USA

Nick played in the 114th Trans-Mississippi Championship between the 10th and 13th July. The tournament was held at the Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas. The format was 72 holes of strokeplay – the starting field of 144 players will be reduced to 54 after the second round.

Unfortunately it wasn't Nick's week and he missed the cut with rounds of 74 and 76. The winner was Cameron Champ from California on 9 under.

Cameron Champ played in the US Open in June and along with Scottie Scheffler (another amateur playing in the Trans-Miss) and they were the only two amateurs to make the cut. Scottie Scheffler won the Low Amateur medal and finished in a tie for 27th.

In Nick's own words…..

I hit a lot of quality golf shots but overall I was inefficient and my putter was cold. I just couldn't get the momentum going and sloppy mistakes crept in. However, my attitude remained good throughout and I didn't give up. I continued to plug along with everything I had. It reminded me of something Jay Carter (my NZ coach) once told me – we always see everyone playing well on TV and think that's what professional golf is all about but in reality it is more about the days when you're not firing on all cylinders but you continue fighting with everything you have.

Trans-Miss History

The Trans-Mississippi Amateur or Trans-Miss Amateur has been played annually since 1901. It is played at a different course each year – the courses are all located near or west of the Mississippi River. From 1987 to 2009, the field was limited to mid-amateurs (age 25 or greater). From its inception through to and including the 2009 event it was played in two parts, a 36 hole stroke play competition to determine a 64 player field for the match play competition. Beginning in 2010, it is a 54 hole stroke play tournament with no age restrictions on entry.

Past winners include Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw and Bryson DeChambeau who has turned pro in the last couple of years.

Prairie Dunes Country Club

Tom Watson described Prairie Dunes as "A little bit of Scotland in the land of Oz. Sunflowers instead of heather, oceans of grain instead of the sea. But, like Scotland, be prepared because the wind always blows." When they say Oz they are referring to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz when Dorothy is swept from a farm in Kansas to a magical land of Oz in a tornado.

It is unusual to find a links style course in the centre of the USA where there is no seaside.

Emerson Carey, founder of Carey Salt Company, was an avid golfer and had travelled the world with his family, playing top ranked courses in the early 1900s including Scotland in the 1920s. Carey and his four sons became a staple in the Hutchinson golf community, contributing to the development of several courses in the area. In 1935 the Carey family commissioned architectural genius Perry Maxwell (Southern Hills, Colonial Country Club, redesign of Pine Valley and Augusta National) to design a masterpiece. Thus, the idea of Prairie Dunes was born.

Maxwell's response to the 480 acre canvas for his masterpiece, "there are 118 holes here, all I have to do is eliminate 100".

Thus, construction began on Prairie Dunes. The course was molded from the Kansas land using 18 horses and mules, Fresno scrapers and wheelbarrows. The only mechanised equipment used were Model T and Model A Fords which were used to bring the workers to site. Greens and fairways came to life by teams dragging plows and scoops, while roots of native grass and weeds were removed by hand one wheelbarrow at a time. In true Kansas fashion, a tornado swept across the site, forcing men into a bunker for protection. Despite the elements, Prairie Dunes opened the first 9 holes on the 13th September 1937. Twenty years later in 1957, The Dunes opened the second 9 holes, designed by Perry Maxwell's son.

Prairie Dunes had held the Trans-Miss five times prior to 2017.

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Northeast Amateur – Rhode Island, USA

Nick played in the prestigious Northeast Amateur from the 21st to the 24th June.  He had another strong showing finishing in a tie for 8th at 3 under with rounds of 63, 72, 70 and 68.  The winner, Colin Morikawa finished on 11 under.

The tournament was played on the Wannamoiset Country Club in Rhode Island.

In Nick's own words………..

I drove the ball amazingly well this week – I hit 75% of fairways and didn't have any wasted shots off the tee which is huge. I did a great job managing my emotions and staying in a good frame of mind. This was demonstrated when I went through a stretch of 58 holes with only two birdies. I kept assuring myself that I don't have to play perfect to complete and that my game is good enough – I kept telling myself that I am only one shot away from playing great.

My putting let me down again this week and I battled to commit to my feels. Overall I didn't feel I played that well so was very pleased to come away tied for 8th. There were some tremendous improvements in my driving, however everything else felt a bit sloppy so I look forward to the next two weeks practice and preparation for the next tournament.

Nick was the clubhouse leader after the first round – check out the Day 1 highlights videos and news story here:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AHz8CuUk9c4&feature=youtu.be

https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=Fudjv-m-4vo

New Zealand's Nick Voke (Iowa State '17) Leads After Round 1 (http://www.northeastamateur.com/news)

EAST PROVIDENCE _ Nick Voke is on a hot streak these days, and his strong play continued Wednesday in the first round of the 56th Northeast Amateur at Wannamoisett Country Club.

Voke, a recent graduate of Iowa State who hails from New Zealand, led an onslaught on par at the old Donald Ross-designed course, posting a 6-under 63. He had seven birdies, three of them deuces on par-3s.

He needed all of them to be in the lead by himself. Collin Morikawa, a first-team All-American at the University of California and member of the United States Palmer Cup team, was second with a 64 that included an eagle when he spun his approach from 92 yards back into the cup on the 391-yard, par-four 11th.

Another All-American, Scottie Scheffler of Texas, followed up his low amateur performance at the U.S. Open last week by tying for third at 4-under 65. Clemson All-American Doc Redman and Vanderbilt star Theo Humphrey also had 65s. Reigning Rhode Island Amateur champion Davis Chatfield, a Wannamoisett member, was the low area player with a 67.

In all, 35 of the 92 starters shot par or better. The majority of the low scores were posted early on when the winds were light and the greens softer than usual because of rain on Tuesday. Voke was among those in the early wave who took advantage. He came in on a roll, having finished third at last week’s Sunnehanna Amateur, one stroke out of a playoff for the title. That followed a first-place finish in the Texas Regional of the NCAA Tournament.

"It was a good day,’’ Voke said. “I got off to a pretty hot start. I holed a putt on the first hole and chipped in on the third, so I was 2-under quick,’’ he said. He birdied 11, 12, 13 and 15 to make it a special round.

I was feeling good and my game is in a good spot,’’ he said.

Voke, who tied for fifth at the Northeast two years ago, is delaying turning pro for two reasons. He wants to play the amateur circuit for a final summer and he also is taking time to do an internship. A kinesiology major, he is interested in a possible career as a chiropractor. He has arranged to do an internship with a chiropractor later this summer.

Morikawa also picked up where he left off last week. He lost the Sunnehanna title in a playoff. The resident of La Canada Flintridge, Cal., has moved to third in the world amateur rankings after earlier being number one.

Another highlight of the opening day was that it also included what is believed to be a first in the Northeast’s 56-year history, and a first in the more than century old Wannamoisett annals, as well.

Ben Wolcott, a junior at the University of Mississippi, made back-to-back eagles on 16 and 17. He had been 4-over through 15, including a pair of double bogeys earlier on the back nine. But he holed out a wedge from 135 yards on the par-4 16th, then reached the green from 282 yards on the par-5 17th. His shot ended four feet from the hole and he made that one, too. So, in the span of two holes he went from 4-over to even.

His feat was unheard of previously because Wannamoisett has only one par-5. The 17th annually gives up some eagles. But few eagles are made elsewhere, so having eagles on back-to-back holes simply is unheard of.

"I know it’s never been done in the Northeast,’’ said Bill Lunnie, the former director of the Northeast and a long time Wannamoisett member. "And I don’t think it’s ever been done at this course.’’

Scheffler was among the others putting himself in good position after the first day. The University of Texas All-American, who turned 20 on Wednesday, was a late arrival. He had travel issues after finishing as low amateur in last week’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills. He did not arrive until midnight Monday at the home of the Conley family, his hosts for the last four years.

"I kind of slept in Tuesday,’’ he said. He did limited prep work but was back in stride well enough to record six birdies and two bogeys for an opening 65.

Scheffler spoke about the difference going from the 7,800-yard Open to the 6,700-yard Northeast.

"There it’s long and open,’’ he said. "Here it’s all about precision.’’

Auburn star Jacob Solomon provided another highlight with an ace on the third hole. 

"It was 144 yards dead into the wind,’’ Solomon said. “It was playing more like 160, so I hit eight iron.’’

"With the pin way back, it was as tough as that hole plays,’’ said Brad Valois, the four-time Rhode Island Amateur champion who was his playing partner. "It hit about a foot behind the hole and spun back in.’’

"That’s a memory,’’ Solomon said. Solomon finished with a 66 that also included birds on each of the last two holes.
The stroke average for the day was 70.6. No records are kept in that department, but that is thought to be the lowest one-day number in tournament history.

Northeast Amateur History

The Northeast Amateur Invitational is considered a ‘major’ in amateur golf, and is ranked #4 of the U.S. amateur golf events of more than 700 events ranked by the R&A World Amateur Ranking List. It is the only 72 hole amateur event played in twosomes, and has been given the name of “Masters of Amateur Golf” by a noted senior golf writer. The tournament began in 1962 and was played as a 54 hole event until 1968. Currently the tournament is conducted over 72 holes of stroke play, with a cut after 54 holes. The field consists of top amateur players throughout the world and is limited to 90 players, by invitation only. 

Past champions have included Dustin Johnson, Luke Donald, Hal Sutton, Ben Crenshaw and Anthony Kim.

Wannamoisett Country Club

Wannamoisett Country Club is home to one of the finest golf courses in the United States. The Donald Ross designed par 69 masterpiece has been ranked as one of the Top 50 courses in the nation by Golf Magazine, Golfweek and Golf Digest. In addition, Links Magazine voted Wannamoisett one of "The 100 Most Prestigious Golf Clubs in the World". Wannamoisett hosted the PGA Championship in 1931 and welcomes the world's best amateur golfers to the annual Northeast Amateur Invitational.

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Sunnehana 

Nick played in the Sunnehanna Amateur from the 14th to the 17th June – this was his first post college tournament. 

The Sunnehanna Amateur, officially the Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament for Champions, is a men’s amateur golf tournament.  Founded in 1954, it is hosted annually at the Sunnehanna Country Club in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, United States. It is considered to be one of the top amateur golf tournaments held in the United States and is classified as a Category A event by the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

The Sunnehanna Amateur is played in stroke play format; 72 holes (four rounds) held over four days. Many current and former PGA Tour, Champions Tour, Walker Cup and Ryder Cup players have competed in the tournament. Tiger Woods played in the tournament twice, finishing 5th in 1992 and tied for 12th in 1993.

Nick finished in a tie for 3rd at 12 under – 1 behind the eventual tournament winner Braden Thornberry who won in a playoff against Colin Morikawa.  He had rounds of 65, 70, 65 and 68.  He had a disappointing three putt on the last which cost him the tournament.

In Nick’s own words…..

I hit the ball really well this week and had good control over my emotions.  I devised a really good pre tournament goal I will keep with me for a long time – I have been struggling with my mindset heading into a tournament – outsome versus process and didn’t really know what to focus on.  I now understand that I should be heading into each round with the goal of simply finding my best, whatever that is for the day.  It takes away the outcome measurements and pressures and puts all the emphasis on staying gritty and shooting the best score I can for the day.

My putting wasn’t the greatest this past week – not bad at all but not good enough.  Five out of my eleven bogey’s were from three putts which needs to improve.  My chipping wasn’t bad either but I didn’t give myself many opportunities – on average I missed three greens in regulation per round and most of them were into bunkers.  Short game sharpening up is on the horizon this coming week : )

Sunnehanna Amateur Foundation Incorporated
Sunnehanna Amateur Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2015. The primary purpose of the Sunnehanna Amateur Foundation, Inc. is the promotion of a national and international amateur golf competition, Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament, held annually in Johnstown, PA. The tournament invites players who have participated in the Walker Cup, NCAA, USGA Amateur Events, and players who rank in the top 150 of the Golfweek/Sagarin Amateur Rankings. Also invited are top rank juniors and champions of other major amateur tournaments. In addition, the Sunnehanna Amateur conducts a 18 hole qualifier, which the top four players earn a spot in the Sunnehanna Amateur. The tournament is a 72 hole event played over four days. The Sunnehanna Amateur is a designated point tournament and players can earn points which count toward the Golfweek/Sagarin Amateur Ranking.

Second, the Sunnehanna Amateur will sponsor youth educational activities, such as an instructional golf clinic for children in the Greater Johnstown area. The players who are participating in the Sunnehanna Amateur will conduct basic instructions on the golf swing. Each child will receive a hat for participating at the clinic. In addition, children who have played in junior events or on high school golf teams will play with one of the participants in the Junior-Amateur tournament.

This year’s contributions will aid the Johnstown Backpack Project, an effort of nine local organizations working together to ensure that children do not go hungry over the weekend. Volunteers pack bags full of ready-to-eat meals that reach more than 350 children in the Johnstown area every weekend during the school year. 

The Course at Sunnehanna Country Club

The golf course at Sunnehanna is a terrific example of an Albert W. Tillinghast design. Perched on a hilltop, the course meanders 360 degrees around the clubhouse. The greens are basically small in size, well bunkered, requiring accurate iron play. The ball needs to be placed below the pin to produce the best chance for a birdie. Fairway bunkers generally are only on one side of the fairway, which is a typical Tillinghast characteristic.

Like many of its brethren designed in the early 1920’s, the course has evolved over time. Built prior to the advent of central watering systems, Sunnehanna was designed to play bump and run shots. The course when playing as designed, plays hard and fast with shots meant to be played short of the greens. This accounts for the open entrance to the greens. The course was relatively free of trees. 

In 1956, in response to the success of the Sunnehanna Amateur and the growing influence of parkland golf, Sunnehanna would also change. New trees were added throughout the course, specifically mentioned in tournament notes were 50 trees on the right of number 6 and  number 11, to name a few. 

Sunnehanna is truly a great golf course that has withstood the test of time. The club has recently begun the reconstruction of the fairway and greenside bunkers to return them to their originally intended design. Greens, which had also shrunk, have been brought back to their original size. These subtle changes have resulted in a more aesthetically interesting and demanding course. It is a layout that members and the best players in amateur golf recognize as a terrific test of golf, which is fair and challenging at the same time. 

With these relatively minor changes performed on the course, the scoring average for the Amateur field has changed very little in the 47-year history of the Sunnehanna Amateur. 

The average score over all the years has been 74.09 for 18 holes. A round of golf played on the beautiful course can rarely be described as a “good walk spoiled”.


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Nick Voke Golf moving forward……..

The last four years at Iowa State University have simply been incredible.  The improvement in my golf game throughout my time in college has been surpassed only by the development of my character – the life lessons, experiences and memories will be with me forever. Having just recently graduated though, I now look forward to the next phase of my life where I will pursue my dream as a touring professional.

The next four to twelve months are going to be very exciting!  Although the options and possibilites are endless, there is a substantial amount of uncertainty when considering which professional tour to join and where to base myself.  Bearing in mind some of the restrictions I will soon encounter – I will try and lay out a simplifed version of my plan here.

 I believe that from a development perspective, Iowa State is the best place for me to base myself in the short-term. The coaches, facilities and competition combine to provide an environment I can’t immediately replicate by myself anywhere else.  Therefore, I will be staying on campus until December 2017.  In order for me to maintain a student visa and some financial aid, I am competing an Internship at a local Chiropractor that the athletic department utilises.  This great opportunity to work alongside Dr. Feil allows me the freedom I need to compete and train at a world-class level while also furthering my academic interests in the ‘real-world’.

 In terms of my upcoming golf – I will be playing a full summer schedule of amateur golf here in the USA while also completing some hours for my Chiropractoric internship. The events are below…

1. Sunnehanna Amateur​ – ​Pennyslvania​ – 14th to 17th June ​

2. North-East Amatuer​​ – Rhode Island​​ – 21st to 24th June 

3. Trans-Miss Amateur​​ – Kansas​ – 10th to 13th July ​​

4. Western Amateur​​ – Illinios​​​ – 31st July to 5th August 

5. US Amatuer​​​ – California​ – 14th to 21st August​

My first attempt at securing status on a professional circuit will be in October 2017 on the US Web.com tour (stepping stone to the US PGA Tour).  I will be competing in the QualifyingSschool as an amateur.  The details are below:

Pre-qualifying​ ​Exempt Status

1st Stage ​​- Arbor Links – Nebraska​​​ – 3rd to 6th October 

2nd Stage – TPC Craig Ranch – Texas​ – 7th to 11th November 

Final Stage​ – Whirlwind Golf Club – Arizona​​ – 7th to 11th December

I will also be competing in the 2017 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in late October at Royal Wellington Golf Club in New Zealand.  This event takes place in between the 1st and 2nd stage of the web.com qualifying school.  I have come close in previous years and have a good shot at winning this year – the winner receives an invitation to the 2018 Masters.

Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship​ ​- Royal Wellington Golf Club – New Zealand – 21st to 24th October

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Living the Dream – Iowa State University 2013 to 2017

As the saying goes “time flies when you’re having fun”.  Nick has just finished his final year at Iowa State University (ISU) where he completed a degree in kinesiology.  Kinesiology is the scientific study of human or non-human body movement. Kinesiology addresses physiological, biomechanical, and psychological mechanisms of movement.  Nick started at ISU in September 2013 embarking on a four year program that has seen him flourish academically, as a golfer but most importantly as a human being.

Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm (now Iowa State University) was officially established on March 22, 1858, by the legislature of the State of Iowa. Story County was selected as a site on June 21, 1859, and the original farm of 648 acres was purchased for a cost of $5,379. The Farm House, the first building on the Iowa State campus, was completed in 1861, and in 1862, the Iowa legislature voted to accept the provision of the Morrill Act, which was awarded to the agricultural college in 1864. Iowa Agricultural College (Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts as of 1898), as a land grant institution, focused on the ideals that higher education should be accessible to all and that the university should teach liberal and practical subjects. These ideals are integral to the land-grant university.

The first official class entered at Ames in 1869, and the first class (24 men and 2 women) graduated in 1872. Iowa State was and is a leader in agriculture, engineering, extension, home economics, and created the nation’s first state veterinary medicine school in 1879. 

In 1959, the college was officially renamed Iowa State University of Science and Technology. The focus on technology has led directly to many research patents and inventions including the first binary computer (the ABC), Maytag blue cheese, the round hay baler, and many more.

Beginning with a small number of students and Old Main, Iowa State University now has approximately 27,000 students and over 100 buildings with world class programs in agriculture, technology, science, and art.

Iowa State University is a very special place, full of history.  But what truly makes it unique is a rare combination of campus beauty, the opportunity to be a part of the land-grant experiment, and to create a progressive and inventive spirit that we call the Cyclone experience. Appreciate what we have here, for it is indeed, one of a kind. 

What attracted Nick to Iowa State was the world class golf facility located near the University campus and the high calibre coaching staff.  The versatile facility consists of indoor and outdoor practice areas.  Indoor, the Cyclones will be able to keep their game sharp all year long, despite rain or snow.  Practicing inside, players will have the advantage of using an indoor putting green large enough to allow for chip shots from the rough.  Not only will golfers be able to practice putting on a green through the winter, they will also have the chance to work on their approach.  Four heated hitting bays are located in the heart of the building, overlooking a private driving range.  Within the property lies 12 different putting greens along with practice fairways. The area includes everything from bunker shots to chips from the rough.

Nick has met some outstanding people and was especially fortunate to start in the same year as Ruben Sondjaja from Sydney, Australia and Jack Carter from Ohio, USA who were not only team and room mates but have become extremely close friends.  They have shared a wonderful journey together.

Nick reflects on his final year as a Cyclone at ISU……

February is far from friendly.  Relentless winds whip through, sculpting mounds of snow that pile high. Jackets, mittens and beanies are ever-present, showcasing the severity of the season. Common sense screams that Ames, in the middle of winter, is reserved for hot chocolate and heaters just like the vast Arctic tundra. The thought of doing something productive outside seems silly. The idea that the local college golf program could improve and develop into a national contender? Only in our wildest dreams.

But what common sense fails to grasp is how Iowa State, a humble and hard-working team from middle-of-nowhere Ames, beat the powerhouse programs of Arizona, Arizona State and UNLV in February to win the NIT college tournament. How can the local golf team stack up against the best in the business when they are, well, from Iowa?

My name is Nick Voke from New Zealand and I was a member of the Iowa State University’s men’s golf team and I will tell you how.

Right from the outset we all knew our programs potential; ‘Cinderella strikes again’ the headlines could read. This could be our year, one for the books and one to remember. But, just as the most beautiful butterfly grows innocently within a cocoon, something special was starting to brew behind closed doors. As an old Greek proverb tells us, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they will never see”. In an ironic twist, our most decorated season in recent decades was driven by a collective purpose not specifically to win, but to plant the foundations of the trees that will flourish in the years to come.

It was to leave Iowa State in a better place than what we found it.

The music we were playing at the core of our culture was a harmony of humility, courage, discipline and excellence – adding to the cyclones who have been before and leaving it for the cyclones who will follow, in an unbroken rope of life where it was simply our turn to weave.

When individuals commit whole-heartedly to a greater purpose beyond themselves, they surrender their individual ambitions and are strengthened by those around them – past and present. For us – leaders emerged, standards were raised, accountability among ourselves intensified. We started living the ‘hard way’, in the ‘green box’ of behaviors, going above and beyond. The collective effort of 8 individuals, coupled with the best golf facility in the nation and guided by irreplaceable coaches fostered a growth environment – we were to be the best we could possibly be.

We didn’t need to beat Texas, Oklahoma State and Alabama at the National Championship. We need to beat them Every. Single. Day.

The van ride heading back from the Big 12 Championship was dark and gloomy.  Sure, our team had amounted 3 college victories and had etched our names into the record books but something important was missing – a consistency, a performance, or a round that would prime our program from the outskirts and propel us into the realm of the golfing greats.

For those unfamiliar with college golf, our regular season play had secured us a place at the NCAA Regionals. The top 70 or so college golf programs would gather at 6 regional sites across the country to compete for a spot at the NCAA National Championship – the top 5 at each site secure that honor. Our program had tangoed its way to the big dance back in 2014 and we were more eager than ever to return. 

It all came down to the final day, Iowa State was in a tie for 4th at the Austin Regional – right on the brink between a tail-between-the-legs waddle back to Ames or a ceremonious march on to the next stage. We needed to fire on all cylinders. Now or Never.

What followed was my most memorable moment ever to take place on a golf course – magic of the purest form. It rewrote record books, shattered course records and caught national attention.  (See my previous blog https://nickvokegolf.com/2017/06/12/ncaa-regional-texas-usa/ )

 On the grandest stage in NCAA post-season play, we unleashed.

 Sam – 71 (even)

Tripp – 68 (-3)

Denzel – 68 (-3)

Ruben – 66 (-5)

Myself – 61 (-10)

It was a combined 21 under par effort from the lads that secured us a trip to nationals.

It was a day of excitement and thrill only ever seen in our wildest dreams.

It was a glimpse into what our program is capable of and where we are heading, but more importantly, it was an effort that will plant the seeds for future generations to come

When Jack, Ruben and I look back over our past 4 years at Iowa State, nothing but heart-warming memories will come flooding back. Although our paths have taken slightly different turns since graduating, we will always share the same pride and appreciation that comes with being an Iowa State Cyclone.

There is something special there, whether it be the mid-west friendliness or the hard-working and humble farmers attitude – I am not entirely sure. All I know is that Ames will always be my home away from home and that I will forever be grateful for those who have been a part of it.

It took me 4 years to realize that adding to the program isn’t what you leave behind engraved on some wall or record book, it is what you are able to weave into the life of the program and its people.

I am sure in many years to come – Jack, Ruben and I will have our little re-union and reminisce over the good times together. The memories about victories and championships will have begun to fade and our records erased by the new crop of golfers. What will continue to stay with us, however, will be the little memories that only a few of us share together that helped to create the foundations for a power-house northern program to grow.

I wouldn’t change it for a thing.

Kia Kaha Iowa State, you are in good hands.

Nick’s achievements while at ISU:

Career leader in victories – 5 

Career stroke average record holder – 71.89

Finished the season with his best national ranking – 45 

2016-17

Ping Honorable Mention All-American … Ping All-Central Region … First-Team Academic All-Big 12 … led team in stroke average (71.31) and sub-70 rounds (13) … his 71.31 stroke average ranks second on ISU’s season record list … posted four top-10 finishes and two tournament victories (Hawkeye Invite; NCAA Austin Regional) … ranked No. 45 nationally by Golfweek … averaged 3.67 birdies per round … carded rounds of 76-72-75 (223) to tie for 95th before the 54-hole cut at the NCAA Championship … posted a five-shot victory at the NCAA Austin Regional with a school-record 199 (71-67-61) … became the first Cyclone to win a NCAA postseason event … his final-round 61 (-10) shattered the previous school record by three strokes and bested the course record at the UT Golf Club by four shots … only player in school history to record a 10-under round and among four Division I players this year to post a 10-under round … was one stroke shy from his fourth-straight top-10 performance at the Big 12 Championship, tying for 13th at 296 (76-71-75-4=296) … fired a 203, the fourth-best score in school history, at the NIT to tie for second (66-68-69) … was medalist at the Hawkeye Invitational (68-67-72=207) … missed the VCU Shootout while competing in the World Amateur Team Championship and sat out the Pinetree Invite with an injury … posted a 214 to tie for eighth at the Badger Invite … shot a blemish-free 65 in the final round at the Bridgestone Collegiate … his 71.89 career stroke average ranks No. 1 in school history … his 18 career top-10 finishes ties for second in school history … only player in school history to record multiple 7-under rounds … only player in school history and the 11th player in Big 12 history to place in the top-10 at the conference meet three times … has the most career tournament victories in school history with five … owns three of the top six 54-hole scores in school history. 

2015-16

First-Team All-Big 12 … Ping All-Central Region … NCAA Regional participant … Big 12 All-Tournament team … First-Team Academic All-Big 12 … Cleveland/Srixon All-America Scholar … team leader in stroke average at 71.54, the third-best single-season mark in school history … also led the team in top-10 finishes (6) and sub-70 rounds (13) … placed in the top-25 in 10 out of 11 tournaments … ranked 66th nationally by Golfweek … tied for 22nd at the NCAA Stillwater Regional (70-81-77=228) … finished eighth at the Big 12 Championship to earn all-tournament honors (74-73-71-69=287) … tied for third at the Gopher Invite (215) and tied for second at the VCU Shootout (211) … missed the Bridgestone Collegiate while competing in the Asia-Pacific Amateur … shared medalist honors at the NIT with a 205, his third career tournament title … posted a second-round 65 (7-under) at the NIT, tying for the second-lowest score in relation to par in ISU history … landed in a tie for 10th place at the Desert Shootout (207) after carding two sub-70 rounds … was the runner-up medalist at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational after scoring rounds of 68-68-65 (201), the second-best 54-hole score in ISU history … in the summer, qualified for the U.S. Amateur. 

2014-15

First Team Academic All-Big 12 … Big 12 All-Tournament team … second on the team in stroke average at 72.41 … ranked 137th nationally by Golfstat … tallied four top-10 finishes and two tournament victories (VCU Shootout; General Hackler) … second on the team in top-10 finishes (4) and sub-70 rounds (8) … tied for 46th at the NCAA Bremerton Regional (71-77-74=222) … tied for 10th (70-73-74-73=290) at the Big 12 Championship… fired three-straight sub-70 rounds (68-69-68) at the ASU Thunderbird to finish third at 205, the ninth-best score in school history … carded a 210 at the Desert Shootout to tie for 13th … won his second tournament title of the year by firing a 212 at the General Hackler Championship … in the second round, posted a 7-under 65 to tie the school record for lowest 18-hole score in relation to par … it also set the course record at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club… third on the team in stroke average in the fall, registering a 74.1 scoring mark … won his first career tournament by claiming medalist honors at the VCU Shootout (74-68-71=213) … tied for 17th at the Badger Invite (74-75-73) at 232.

2013-14

Big 12 All-Tournament team … broke ISU’s rookie scoring mark, tallying a 72.39 stroke average, the second-best average on the team … led the team in sub-70 rounds with eight … tied for second in top-10 finishes with four … ranked No. 160 by Golfweek … season was cut short by an injury before the NCAA Regional … garnered All-Tournament honors by tying for ninth at the Big 12 Championship … posted his eighth sub-70 round of the season in the final round to finish with a 72-hole mark of 293 … finished 13th at the Hawkeye Invitational, posting a 218 54-hole tally … became the third freshman in school history to record a score of 66 or lower at the Jim West Intercollegiate … posted a 211 at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational, tying for 13th … fired a 213 (77-69-68) at the Desert Intercollegiate to tie for 19th … played the final two rounds of the Desert Intercollegiate at 7-under … led the team in stroke average in the fall at 71.83 … shot a final-round 69 at the David Toms Intercollegiate to tie for seventh (217) … recorded his second career top-10 at the Columbia Regional Preview (T6th) to become the first Cyclone freshman to place in the top-10 in his first two events … shot rounds of 68-73-73 for a 214 total … tied for eighth in his Cyclone debut at the Gopher Invitational with rounds of 70-67-75 … was tied for the lead heading into the final round at the Gopher Invite … placed second at the Iowa Open in the amateur division … took third at the Bay of Plenty Open … was selected to Team New Zealand to play in the Asian Pacific Amateur Championship in China.

What does it mean to be an All American?

An All-America team is a hypothetical American sports team composed of outstanding amateur players. These players are broadly considered by media and other relevant commentators as the best players in a particular sport, of a specific season, for each team position.

Such athletes at the high school and college level are given the honorific title and typically referred to as “All-American athletes” or simply “All-Americans”.

Nick and his Mum Michelle


Ruben Sondjaja, Nick and Jack Carter

 

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NCAA Nationals – Illinois, USA

After their sensational showing in Austin the Cyclones headed to the NCAA Championships at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove which is just outside Chicago.

The team went into the Nationals as the 29th seed out of 30 teams.  The format of the competition is three rounds of stroke play with the top 15 teams advancing to the match play.  Unfortunately the team finished in a tie for 18th and missed the cut.  

Nick had rounds of 76, 72 and 75 finishing in a tie for 95th.

On a positive note, Nick’s team mate and fellow countrymen, Denzel Ieremia advanced to the individual medalist race.  After the strokeplay he was tied for 31st.  He ended up finishing in a tie for 47th after the fourth and final round.

In Nick’s own words…..

It was a disappointing finish to my career as a Cyclone.  The boys needed to fire in the final round but unfortunately we just couldn’t get things going.  I’m really proud of the boys and how we operated, the coolest thing was that we belonged there and we all know it.  It was the big stage and our program fit right in.  We all played pretty average and nearly squeezed in that cut for the final round and then anything could have happened. 

In terms of how I played – it was really frustrating.  I hit the ball pretty well but shot myself in the foot too many times. There were a few too many sloppy swings at the wrong times and as a result I made quite a few bogeys. My putter was pretty cold this week (through all putting numbers) and therefore I couldn’t capitalize on the birdies or make the momentum building par putts. I wasted a few shots off the tee per round (around 2) which you just can’t do at an event like this. It was an inefficient type of effort – I played decent but scored poorly. 

Rich Harvest Farms

In 1987, Jerry Rich began o develop Rich Harvest Farms, the now 18 hole ultra private golf course that winds through the tranquil and picturesque landscape,

After 10 years of perfecting each hole, all 18 were complete and Rich Harvest Farms was rated the 5th Best New Private Golf Course by Golf Digest.  Three years later, Golf Digest placed the course on “America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses”, where it remains today.

The course has held many prestigious events including the Solheim Cup, the Palmer Cup and the Western Amateur.

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