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 )

 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 


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. 


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. 


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.


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



This blog was originally set up to share our 9 month adventure around Europe and the USA with friends and family in 2014. On returning to NZ in January 2015 I decided to carry it on so I could continue to share any future travel adventures - it has become my electronic travel diary. I hope you enjoy and get inspired to visit some of the wonderful places we have visited.
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