Freshmen Ruben Sondjaja, Nick Voke make immediate impact for ISU men’s golf

Nick Voke recorded his tenth career top-10 finish by tying for second at the VCU Shootout on Sept. 22. As a team, Iowa State finished in fourth place out of 13 teams.

Mike Randleman

For an international golfer coming to play collegiately in the United States, the adjustment of higher-level competition can prove challenging.

In the case of ISU freshmen golfers Ruben Sondjaja and Nick Voke, the biggest challenge may come off of the golf course.

“I’ve never really seen snow my whole life,” said Sondjaja, a native of Sydney, Australia. “It’ll be an adjustment.”

His teammate Voke is in a similar circumstance.

“Where I’m from, you don’t get any snow,” said Voke of his home in Auckland, New Zealand. “It hasn’t snowed in about 60 years or so,” 

Aside from uncertainties for the impending Iowa winter, the two freshmen have adjusted quickly to golf in the United States. Sondjaja and Voke are core members of a top-40 college golf program at Iowa State, according to both Golfstat and Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.

The two freshmen are first and third on the team in scoring, with Voke and Sondjaja recording stroke averages of 71.92 and 72.58, respectively.

“My year so far, I’ve played pretty consistent,” Voke said. “I don’t personally feel like I’ve played my best. I’d probably evaluate myself as a B or B- for how I’ve gone so far.”

Voke has competed and posted qualifying scores in all four tournaments this season for the Cyclones, where he has yet to finish worse than a tie for 21st place individually. He has also recorded three top-10 finishes, including a season best tie for sixth-place at the Columbia Regional Preview.

Sondjaja has also been a constant contributor for the Cyclones. He has mirrored Voke in posting qualifying scores in all four tournaments and recording his best finish thus far at the Columbia Regional Preview, where he tied Voke for sixth-place.

Sondjaja has also finished inside the top 30 in each event, posted two top-10 finishes, and holds the team’s best individual round thus far. His final round score of 66 led to him tying for sixth place in Columbia, Mo. and was integral to the team’s second-place finish that week.

“I think I’ve played pretty solid this year. There are lots of good signs, there’s been lots of potential in the game over the last few weeks,” Sondjaja said. “I still need to fine-tune a few things, but I think Nick and I have done pretty well this year as freshmen.”

Both players demonstrated modesty regarding the state of their games and a desire for improvement, though ISU coach Andrew Tank has been pleased with what he has seen from his young players.

“On the golf course, they’re doing great. They’ve stepped right in, they’ve played well and they’re contributing. They’re having a huge impact on our team score,” Tank said. “Off the golf course, they’ve been equally as impressive about fitting in and getting to know Iowa State University and being good teammates.”

Their transition has been aided, in part, from their teammates, particularly fellow Oceania natives Duncan Croudis and Sam Daley.

“I’ve been good friends with Sam Daley; he’s from Queensland [Australia] and I knew of him. I played with him in the junior ranks back at home, so that definitely helped influence my decision [to come to Iowa State],” Sondjaja said of Daley, a junior on the team.

The two Aussies will play together in the Spirit International later this fall, a team event in Texas that will feature top amateurs from 20 countries.

Croudis, senior from Dunedin, New Zealand, has played a role in Voke’s college selection as well as adjusting to life in Ames. 

Voke’s first exposure to the ISU golf program was through hearing about Croudis at Iowa State and reading articles about his progress. Croudis has had an impact early in shaping the beginning of Voke’s time at Iowa State.

“[He’s] just like a big brother to me, he takes care of me. I can stay over there whenever, use his car and everything,” Voke said. “It’s been really helpful.”

Sondjaja and Voke are both expected to compete in the team’s final tournament of the year at the Bridgestone Golf Collegiate on Oct. 26 and 27.