Sondjaja and Voke to lead young ISU men’s golf team in 2015-2016


Richard Martinez/Iowa State Daily

Ruben Sondjaja, sophomore from Australia, warms up for practice at Iowa State’s golf performance facility south of campus. The men’s golf team prepared for the Badger Invitational in Madison, Wisconsin, making it the first Big 10 tournament the team will play on the road this season. Iowa State placed second overall with a score of 872, just one stroke behind winners Same Houston State with 871.

Mike Randleman

A college golf team replacing two graduating starters is nothing uncommon. Replacing the 2013 ISU male athlete of the year and a former All-Big 12 performer, however, is another thing. 

As Scott Fernandez and Sam Daley move on in hopes of making it as touring professionals, the show must go on with juniors Ruben Sondjaja and Nick Voke.

The ISU men’s golf program was in its halcyon days in recent years, led by Fernandez and Daley. The duo, under the tutelage of ISU head coach Andrew Tank, has made NCAA regionals in three out of four years, and Iowa State made its first appearance at nationals in more than 50 years in 2014.

A once doormat in the Big 12 has developed into a perennial top-50 team, but to continue the success the Cyclones find themselves in a critical juncture as Fernandez and Daley pass the torch to this season’s batch of leaders.

“They feel that it’s their role now to be leaders,” Tank said. “I’m really pleased with what I’ve seen through both of them with their actions and helping out the freshmen. Just leading by example.”

The two have already placed themselves on a similar trajectory in their underclass years as Fernandez and Daley.

In two seasons, Voke garnered two medalist honors, eight total top-10 finishes and 16 rounds in the 60s.

Through his first two seasons, Fernandez, who’s arguably the most decorated golfer in Cyclone history, had a similar showing in his freshman and sophomore seasons: two medalist honors, 15 top-10 finishes and 13 rounds in the 60s.

Sondjaja has also asserted himself as a reliable starter in posting six top-10s, a 73.08 stroke average, compared to 72.4 for Voke, and the lowest individual round in school history. As a freshman in 2014, Sondjaja tied Chris Baker for the record with a 64.

While those two stalwarts are the least of Tank’s concerns, the duo only solves half of the equation. Four out of five individual scores are counted for the team score in each round. Who will be shouldering the load throughout the rest of the lineup is still to be determined.

Via team qualifying over the previous two weekends, freshman Jon Hudson, junior Jack Carter and redshirt senior Collin Foster have earned their way into the lineup for the team’s first event, the Gopher Invitational on Sunday and Monday.  

That lineup could very well have a different appearance when the Big 12s roll around in May or even for the Virginia Commonwealth Shootout on Sept. 21.

“I think there’s a great opportunity for some guys,” Tank said. “The freshmen … can assert themselves. [Carter] has played quite a few events; a number of them have been as an individual, but he’s got experience.

“I really don’t know what to expect yet this year, but it’s definitely an excited group of guys, they’re hungry, they’re going to work hard.”

With two freshmen, a sophomore, three juniors and a redshirt senior, Iowa State is not the most experienced bunch. On paper, the Cyclones would appear to be a year away from threatening for another nationals appearance as college golf publications have little to no mentions of Iowa State making noise on a national level.

Nonetheless, players and coaches alike aren’t thinking about what could be next year. They see no excuse as to why they cannot win now, inexperience be damned.

“The goal is always to get the team to match play,” Foster said about the goal to be one of eight teams to advance to the NCAA Championship match play finals. “If you get to match play, who knows what can happen. We have the team to do it, we have the practice facility here.

“There will be no excuse. It’s the last year for me, and I want to go out on a high note.”