February & March 2019 – Update

From South America to Australia to New Zealand to North America, February and March were a busy couple of months for Nick as we plied his trade on the various tours that he is a member of.

First up was the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth between the 14th and 17th February at the Lake Karrinyup Golf Club. Unfortunately Nick didn’t make the cut but New Zealand did have some success with our top ranked professional, Ryan Fox winning his first title on the European Tour.

It was then back home to play in the 100th New Zealand Open at Millbrook Resort and The Hills between the 28th February and 3rd March. The tournament was won by Australian Zach Murray with New Zealand’s Josh Gerry finishing second.

Nick then had some time with his coaches back in Iowa before travelling to Louisiana to play in the Monday qualifier for the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, a web.com event. Unfortunately he missed out on getting into the main draw for this tournament.

Next up was the Savannah Golf Championship at the Landings Club in Deer Creek Golf Club in Georgia where he made it into the draw based on his web.com status. He made the cut with a 36 hole score of 6 under. The weekend wasn’t quite as fruitful and he finished up at 2 under in a tie for 65th.

In Nick’s own words…..

After the long series of events to start the year, I went back to my base in Iowa to chill out for a couple of weeks and do some work with my support team. As I had a bit of time off, we were able to peel back a few layers of my game to truely see what had been causing my recent issues. We determined there were a few off the course issues I had to address as well as some on course technical and mental ones. Peeling off these layers and having an objective look at things was quite liberating; the path of improvement was very clear and I had some smaller ‘stepping stone’ goals that felt more attainable.

Following this nice break, I traveled down to Louisiana to try the web.com Monday qualifier. I shot 1 over par on a golf course that yielded an 11 under par 61 on the same day – not the greatest score in comparison BUT I saw some really good improvements in ball flight control that got me all excited. My feels were matching up with the ball flight and I knew that is a key indicator that my game is headed back in the right direction. One of the really cool things I sat down with Coach Tank and talked about is the idea of getting back to my own internal benchmarks – it makes it possible to shoot 1 over and be happy about it. Progress and growth is greater than status and winning.

Following Louisiana, I traveled to Berkeley Hall up in South Carolina to do some practice. A really good friend of mine generously offered me the option to stay and practice there for the week leading up to the next web.com tour event – the Savannah Championship in Georgia. I got into the field without having to Monday qualify and that made my preparation a lot more efficient. We shot two consecutive 69’s to be 6 under par and comfortably inside the cut line. On the weekend however, I shot a pair of 2 over par 74’s to finish up tied for 65th. Similar to the Louisiana Monday qualifier, I saw some tremendous growth in my game compared to the start of the year and have a few other ‘areas’ we will continue to monitor. All in all, an indicator that things are back on an upward trend and a kick of excitment injected into the next break.

I am back in Ames for the next two weeks continuing to grind away. The next web.com tour event is in Alabama and I have a good chance of getting into the field. We are, however, fully prepared to play well in a Monday qualifier if needs be! I’m really excited about the next couple of months as I know we are on the right track with things. Time to pin the ears back and get to work!

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web.com – South America – Colombia & Panama

Country Club de Bogotá Championship

Nick played in his first tournament as an official member of the web.com tour in Colombia between the 31st January and the 3rd February.

Nick shot rounds of 72 and 68 to be at 1 under which after a few anxious moments was enough to make the cut to get into the final two rounds.  He then shot 76 and 70 to be tied for 69th on 3 over.  The tournament was won by Mark Anderson on 17 under par.

Panama Championship

Nick had a quick turnaround to get to Panama for the next web.com event held between the 7th and 10th February at the Golf Club of Panama which celebrates its centenary this year.  The quick greens and strong Panamanian summer breeze always prove quite a challenge on this course.

After rounds of 71 and 75 Nick didn’t make the cut.  The event was won by Michael Gligic on 8 under.

In Nick’s own words….

What an experience!

It’s always difficult travelling to the other side of the globe and teeing it up in unfamiliar territory; you have limited time to absorb as much information as possible, both on the golf course and in the city around you.

What club are you going to hit off the 13th tee? Dogleg right. Bunkers right. Water left and long. Prevailing wind is usually into and slightly off the right. Does this change with a southerly wind, time of day, firmness of the fairway or potentially with different pins? We’re at altitude now – a 6 iron goes 220 yards (normally it would be 200 yards) and comes in hotter, can we adjust?

How about where you’re going to eat at night? Is there a grocery store nearby, laundromat, gym? Where does everyone else go? A few people had food poisoning, let’s avoid where they went and what they ate. How about speaking Spanish? I know pollo means chicken, thats a good start, I think? Got enough local currency to last the week, thoughts on getting a local sim? Lots of things to sort before teeing it up on Thursday!

It was a big jump in the deep end compared to the start of last year where I played in the NZ Masters north of Auckland. I thought I was ready to travel and compete on the web.com tour. The game had different plans; a wise man once told me “experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want”.

The worst case scenario is that we learn more about ourselves and our game in these unfamiliar situations, so really if that is the worst case scenario then how can we really lose? I’m a big fan of continued improvement and development, it’s harder to learn when you’re lifting trophies and much easier when adversity slaps that lesson right across your face.

In Bogotá and Colombia my game wasn’t too far off but it was off just enough to get out of position. I was battling with my start line with the short putts and my holed putt percentage inside 10 feet was a little down. My ball striking was also a little off – the driving was great (which is a cool sign for me) but my approach shots into the green lacked a bit of control. There were a few technical things I was fighting and some process related issues (wrong adjusted numbers). In summary I was making a few too many sloppy bogeys and fighting to make the cut.

Playing professional golf is like taking a long train ride – you start the train in the general direction of where you want to end up (PGA Tour, Majors etc.) and each week you get off the train to compete and collate information. After each week you review what happened and learn from it and then get back on the train headed for the next stop and then the next stop after that.

For me the underlying priority isn’t what happens at each stop and I try not to make big decisions based on what ‘stop’ is coming up. I’m more concerned with what actually happens to the train. Is it still heading in the right direction? If yes then perfect! If no, then what can you do to adjust the direction of the train, test it at the next stop and then go from there? A continued cycle of development and improvement is what this game is all about.

I’m on my last flight bound for Perth for the World Super 6 Perth, a co sanctioned European Tour and PGA Tour of Australasia event. My flight route has taken me from Panama to Miami to Los Angeles to Auckland where I had a 12 hour layover and now we are on the last leg of the journey to Perth. It’s the less glamourised and documented side of professional golf. With my conditional status on the web.com tour, I can’t pick and choose my schedule at the moment and my ‘number’ doesn’t get me in this week web.com event in Florida.

Missing the cut in Panama could have been a blessing in disguise as it means that we have enough time to travel over to Perth and compete. Following Perth I have a week off in Auckland and then the New Zealand Open in Queenstown. Exciting times ahead and as always it will be great to play at home! Plenty of opportunities to learn, to grow and to steer this train in the right direction.

Fairways and Greens!

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web.com Final Qualifying – Arizona, USA

Nick’s great form on the PGA Tour China earnt him membership of the web.com tour and a place in the final qualifying tournament to earn some guaranteed starts on the web.com Tour in 2019.

The tournament was played at the Whirlwind Golf Club in Arizona on the Devil’s Claw and Cattail courses from the 13th to the 16th December.

The winner receives fully exempt status on the 2019 web.com Tour. Those that finish in 2nd to 10th place are guaranteed entry into the first 12 events of the 2019 web.com Tour regular season and those that finish in 11th to 40th place and ties are guaranteed entry into the first 8 events. The remainder of the field receives conditional status on the 2019 web.com Tour.

The tournament was won by Danny Walker who finished on 27 under par. Nick had rounds of 66, 69, 69 and 67 to finish on 17 under par and in a tie for 50th – he was one shot off making that top 40.

In Nick’s own words…

I made the tough decision to skip the Australasia PGA tournament in Queensland, Australia to get to Arizona in the US to prepare for the final stage of web.com qualifying. Doing well in this tournament meant some guaranteed starts on the web.com tour in 2019. Unfortunately this decision came at the expense of an opportunity to play a great European PGA Tour event and the opportunity to earn some more money. These decisions, to play or not to play, to go there or stay here are important decisions and I am very fortunate to have a great support team offering guidance and advise on such decisions. The guiding principle is this – I will do what is best for my development, not for me today or tomorrow, but for me in the years to come.

The objective for the week before the tournament week was simple: to acclimatise to the weather in Arizona; to be in the gym each day (alternating lifting and movement pattern work); and to get enough time on the course hitting shots under pressure.

We were extremely fortunate to be hosted by some friends at a golf community called Desert Mountain which is the ultimate golf destination! We alternated sessions between Desert Mountain and TPC Scottsdale.

The scores for the web.com final qualifying tournament in 2017 at the Whirlwind Golf Club were pretty crazy so I knew that I was in for a big mental test – do I have the ability to shoot low numbers without trying to force low numbers? It is easy to fire an 8 iron at a flag knowing I need to make birdies, but it is much more difficult to fire an 8 iron 15 feet away from the flag knowing that this is the smart play and that in the back of my mind, I need to make birdies.

It’s an interesting concept, the ability to trust that my natural shot dispersion will create as many birdie opportunities as aiming at the flag. The key difference is that by aiming 15 feet away, I will reduce the amount of bogeys I will have. So my internal goal for the week was to try and shoot low numbers without being reckless and forcing things. My caddy Devin was pivotal in keeping me on track with this game plan.

I fired rounds of 66, 69, 69 and 67 to be 17 under par for the week. I finished in a tie for 50th place and was one shot away from guaranteed starts on the web.com tour via a top 40 finish. I went out on the last day knowing that I needed to go very low and to come up one shot short was bittersweet.

Afterwards, Devin and I had our tournament de-brief and we both agreed that I hadn’t played as well as I could have. Given the weather conditions and course set-up, I played decent enough to make it through but my execution at times was lacking (poor swings and poor putting) and I shot myself in the foot too many times.

Despite coming up short at this tournament, 2018 has been an absolutely incredible rookie year and I am excited to continue learning, growing and developing towards the PGA Tour. I started the year with no status and am now a member of the Web.com tour, the PGA Tour of China and the PGA Tour of Australasia. 

Thank you to everyone for all the support. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and of course good golfing 🏌️‍♂️ 🏌️‍♀️ ⛳️ ☀️ 😎

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New South Wales Open & Australian Open – New South Wales, Australia

Nick was back down under for the New South Wales (NSW) Open which was played from the 8th to the 11th of November at the Twin Creeks Golf & Country Club in Luddenham, 45 minutes west of Sydney.

The NSW Open has been played since 1931 and became a Tier 1 event on the PGA Tour of Australasia in 2016. The event was won by Jake McLeod on 20 under. Nick finished in a tie for 55th on 3 under.

The Australian Open was next up on the calendar. This tournament was played at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney between the 15th and 18th November. This prestigious tournament has been played since 1901 and as part of the Royal & Ancient’s (R&A’s) Open Qualifying Series, the leading three placegetters in the top 10, who are not already exempt, will win direct entry into next year’s British Open Championship. The 2018 event was won by Mexico’s Abraham Ancer who finished five shots clear on 16 under. Nick finished on 3 under in a tie for 23rd.

In Nick’s own words…..

After a whirlwind two months in Asia, I thoroughly enjoyed my three weeks off in Iowa. The weather was immaculate, Ames was pumping with things to do and I got to spend some solid time with my support team.

I flew to Sydney for the NSW Open and the Australian Open. Preparing for these events was a little different; after my success in Asia, I found that there was a little more attention on me and I couldn’t quite fly under the radar like I have before. Although the extra messages, interviews and photos are nice, they have the potential to take your mind away from what you‘re there to do – prepare and play as well as you can.

One of the issues that I faced during my preparation was my own rising expectations. After taking home a few trophies, its easy for your mind to wander and for you to get ahead of yourself. After hitting a few poor shots, I found it increasingly difficult to stay positive, to stay patient and to be optimistic – in summary, it was becoming more and more difficult to be the ‘apprentice’ out there. Even during the practice rounds I was slamming a few clubs around and cussing under my breath – things that I don’t typically do. It’s incredible to observe how my own mindset changes everything. 

I really didn’t hit the ball well at the NSW Open. Although off the tee I was keeping my ball in play, it felt like I was hitting everything to 20 to 40 feet from my target. On the odd occasion where I did miss the green by a fair bit, my chipping wasn’t sharp enough and I left myself a lot of lengthy par putts. Thankfully my putting from inside 10 feet was exceptional and as a result I had a lot of rounds with a couple of birdies and a couple of bogeys. There was nothing bad about my four rounds but certainly nothing to write home about. I finished the event at 3 under par and tied for 55th.

The Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday leading into the Australian Open were some of the most productive practice days I have had at an event. Devin and I, after some review of the NSW Open, did some really good work on my ball striking and chipping. The Lakes Golf Club was going to require a lot of mid iron play into undulating greens so we focused a lot of time and effort around this aspect of my game. We even worked on a 5 iron bump and run for the ‘up and over’ chip and runs. The work we did involved some technical maintenance, some feel or ‘experimental’ type work and some result based challenges. 

The Australian Open was a tremendous event. The hype and energy around the event was just like the New Zealand Open. The event organisers went above and beyond to make the event was as professional and entertaining as possible – it was such a pleasure to be apart of.

In terms of my golf, I struck the ball decent enough, chipped well and putted fine. It’s almost as if every aspect of the game was decent but nothing was special enough to shoot really low scores. I did a much better job at managing myself and my emotions but the standard of golf required around the Lakes Golf Club was higher than what I had. I had four decent rounds of golf and finished at 3 under par and tied for 23rd.

After a great run of form in Asia, it was refreshing to experience how difficult the game can be. It was pleasing to see that I continued to grind away and fight for each shot throughout the two weeks – I certainly didn’t have my ‘A’ game but most of professional golf revolves around how well you can manage yourself when you don’t have your ‘A’ game. It was a refreshing couple of weeks to keep everything in perspective. 

I’m back in the USA now preparing for the final stage of qualifying for the web.com tour. Although I received status on the web.com tour with my efforts in Asia, I will be out there trying to improve my status which will result in some more guaranteed starts. Arizona is one of my favourite places to travel to and play because we are spoiled with the weather and turf conditions. I’m excited to get down there and get to work 🏌️‍♂️ ⛳️ ☀️ 😎.

Nick and his former Iowa State University team mate Ruben Sondjaja

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Cinderella in China

In Nicks words…..

At the 2018 PGA Tour Series China end of year awards ceremony I was awarded the “Cinderella Story of the Yearaward and what a story it has been! I could not have envisioned what has transpired over the past two months in my wildest dreams. Three wins, five top four’s and being genuinely in contention in six straight events. I’m still pinching myself!

As a junior I would imagine and then in practice ‘putt to win the masters’ or ‘hit that magnificent approach shot on 18 with a one shot lead in the British Open’. Recently I have lived out those ‘imagine’ moments – I have holed a putt to win in a playoff, I have eagled the 71st hole on my way to victory and held on to a five shot lead with a talented and determined finishing field chasing me. It’s what all great dreams are made of and I have been absolutely blessed to have experienced this all in my first season as a professional, as a rookie.

One moment that has really stood out and sums up the amazing ride over the past two months perfectly. I was asked during a phone interview “how does it feel to be ‘currently’ among the automatic qualifiers for next years Presidents Cup?” My ears weren’t believing what they were hearing. Last year I graduated college, this year I turned professional, I’ve played 16 events in my rookie year and now I’m being talked about for the Presidents Cup? Unreal.

I‘ve received so many touching messages of support which has been incredibly humbling. I would like to thank each and every one of you for your kind words, encouragement and support. I’m a big believer that we are all products of our own support team and having so many genuine, kind and caring people around me has really shaped me into who I am today. I could not have done any of this without the help of so many people – to you all, thank you very much and I hope that this is the beginning of a long and illustrious career! 

The technicalities……

There have been a few key things that I have done exceptionally well recently for which I have reaped the rewards. For those interested in the nitty gritty, I would like to shed some light on the following ‘inner workings – a glimpse into my toolbox’.

– Skill and Execution
– Mental Approach
– Systems
– Support Team 

Skill and execution (key areas)

Historically, I have not been the greatest driver of the ball. Over the past few years I have struggled to get the ball in play off the tee – my ‘wasted shots off the tee’ had not been very good (around 1.1 shots a round).

In order to improve this stat, I really attacked my driving from a course management perspective, an attitude perspective, from technical improvements and from detailed statistical analysis. I worked my absolute rear end off between the months May and July and things started to turn around for me in late August. Through my Asian Swing, I averaged 73% on the fairways with only 0.5 of a wasted shot off the tee. Essentially I saved two shots a tournament directly from driving the ball in play and countless more from just being in the short grass more regularly.

Another part of my game that has correlated highly with my scoring average is my putting from 5 to 15 feet. Typically I putt the ball really well inside 5 feet (89% for the 3 to 5 feet range this year) which indicates I have a good stroke and can start the ball on line. However, I have struggled to convert this skill of starting the ball on line to making putts from mid-range. The missing part of this formula has been the ability to match my speed with my line. With a similar amount of hard work and a detailed plan, I was able to get my putting numbers up to PGA Tour standards. 

Mental approach

I have found that I play my best golf when I have more of an ‘apprentice’ mindset than a ‘master‘ one. This ‘apprentice’ mindset places more of an emphasis on learning and growing rather than playing perfect. I understand that golf is a very demanding and challenging sport; I can play well enough to get into contention just as easily as I could play poorly and miss the cut. I have accepted that. I have in a way relinquished my need to play well and exchanged that for a perspective more concerned with learning, growing and developing. Therefore, in the heat of battle, I am better equipped to handle adversity, to understand myself and my tendencies, to observe how I handle and react to certain situations, to fully commit to what I am doing without the fear of screwing up and to enjoy myself more. 

An example of how this plays out in competition – after seeing myself on top of the leaderboard in Zhuhai I started to tense up. I reverted back to some of my old tendencies and as a result I hit five consecutive shots left (a right handed pull). I reminded myself that poor shots will inevitably happen and that my priority is to learn from the situation rather than to get frustrated. I started to get things back on track and ended up only shooting three over for the day. This was a very powerful lesson for me. Next time I am in that position, on top of the leaderboard with lots of golf still to play, I will be better equipped to handle myself and my emotions. Hopefully this ‘tool’ will allow me to minimise my poor shots and get my game back on track more efficiently. That three over could be reduced to one over and I will still be in position to contend come Sunday. 

*It‘s not how many birdies you make. It‘s how many bogeys you don’t make.”

Systems

I have started to gain some real clarity on what I need to do to play well. I have my systems in place so that I’m not searching for new pieces to the puzzle; I know what and why I have certain pieces in place and its a matter of putting them all together each week. Below is a list of things that I’m talking about.

  • How I approach a new golf course and come up with a strategy
  • Going to the gym on the road – the what, when and how hard
  • What to take when I travel
  • How to handle myself Monday to Wednesday in terms of energy conservation, nutrient requirements etc…
  • What to do at night in a foreign and unfamiliar place
  • What and when to eat in relation to my tee time
  • How to track and interpret my statistics on the course
  • When to call my support team or when I should learn things for myself

The list goes on but the point is this – I have systems in place and the awareness as to why they are there. Professional golf, in my opinion, heavily revolves around handling everything off the golf course so that you are better equipped to handle everything on the golf course. 

Support Team

When I talk in interviews and in conversations about my own golf, I like to use the term “we” to illustrate just how important a support team is. I am a direct product of my own support team and there is no doubt that they have had the biggest influence on me and my development. Essentially, I am in a position where I almost do the least amount of work. That may sound contradictory and even selfish but by having everything in place and being taken care of I can just focus on practising and playing golf. When it comes to everything else; filing taxes, booking accomodation, negotiating contracts, making peanut butter sandwiches during a tournament etc... I have this amazing support team around me who are looking out for my best interests. I have more time, am less stressed and can truly be in the moment when I am practicing or playing. I have experienced the dividends of this more than ever recently and will strive to continue to recognise and grow this as one of my greatest assets.

I’ve been back in Ames at Iowa State University for the past week now. It‘s been an incredible run of golf but I am eager to get back to the grindstone and continue in my role as the ‘apprentice’. I tee it up again in 2 weeks time at the New South Wales Open, the Australian Open and then final stage of Qualifying School for the web.com to try and improve my status on this tour for 2019.

Thank you for the opportunities and memories PGA China – onwards and upwards 🏌️‍♂️ ☀️ 😎

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Clearwater Bay Open – Hong Kong

Nick finished off his rookie season in China in style claiming his third title in just five events on the PGA Tour China.

Nick was in contention from the first round and carded four rounds in the the sixties – 65, 67, 67, 67 – to finish on 14 under. He went into the final round with a five shot lead but an awesome round of eight under by Callum Tarren reduced that to three shots.

The tournament was held at The Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club in Hong Kong. Nick had previously played here at the Asia Pacific Amateur in 2015.

Going into the tournament Nick was fifth on the Order of Merit after four events. This win saw him finish in third place which secured him a card on the Web.com Tour in the USA (the top five earn cards).

In Nick’s own words…

I drove it very well all week and didn’t make many opportunities to make bogeys. I only made four in the end, so that just summarizes how it was for me out there. Just very solid and steady golf.”

Media Articles

Voke wins Clearwater Bay Open – PGA Tour China Communications

Voke wins third title in five starts to secure Web.ComTour Card – NZ Golf 14 October 2018

Video – Highlights of Round 4 Clearwater Bay Open

Five earn Web.com Tour cards – PGA Tour China Communications

Pre Tournament fun 😊

First Round

Second Round

Third Round

Final Round

Awards Dinner

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Zhuhai Championship – China

Nick played his fourth event in the PGA China Tour Series at the Phoenix Tree Orient Golf Club between the 4th and 7th October.

The Orient Golf Club proved to be a very tough course which was reflected in the scores. The eventual winner was Kevin Techakanokboon from Thailand who finished on four under.

Nick’s first three rounds saw him in the top three on the leaderboard after each round. Unfortunately the last round was tough and he eventually finished on four over in a tie for sixteenth.

After four rounds in China, Nick is now fifth on the Order of Merit with one tournament to play.

The Clearwater Bay Open is being held at The Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club in Hong Kong between the 11th and 14th October.

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