Golf: Kiwi Nick Voke targets US tour card after golden month in Asia

Nick Voke can lay claim to being New Zealand's in-form golf professional, but he won't ride that hot streak into the richest tournament of his rookie career this weekend.

Instead, he's turned his back on the chance at $NZ200,000 for some rest and relaxation as the Aucklander has withdrawn from this week's Asia Pacific Diamond Cup.

The decision to scratch himself from the Japan Tour event follows a golden three week stretch. A fourth and first place finish in China and third in Korea has seen Voke jump from 1038th in the world to 444th.

That rapid rise up the ranks means the 23-year-old is closer to his American golfing dream sooner than he expected.

"I had certainly set some lofty goals for myself at the start of the year but I could never have predicted such success starting out," reflected Voke from Thailand.

At the beginning of September, the 23-year-old hadn't played a single round on the PGA Tour of China Series. But a sponsor's exemption got him a start at the Suzhou Championship where he recorded a share of fourth.

That secured him a start the next week where he won the Qinhuangdao Championship in a playoff; a rare maiden victory in his first year in the paid-for-pay ranks.

Nick Voke.
Nick Voke. Photo credit: Getty Images

Then last week he stepped up to the Asian Tour's Shinhan Donghae Open, finishing an impressive third amongst a battle-hardened field.

"I was playing some fantastic golf two months ago but there were two things that were holding me back and that was my driving and my putting from five to 15 feet.

"We had some tangible evidence to suggest that if I could improve those aspects then watch out."

The two results in China vault Voke to 13th place on their Order of Merit - which is why the time off is necessary.

After his break, he'll return for the final three tournaments of the season with the aim of climbing even higher.

"The Top Ten get to the final stage of the Tour Qualifying School," said Voke.

"That's the priority at the moment; get the Top Ten, go to the final stage, get my Tour card and we'll be away laughing."

The pull to earn playing rights in the United States is strong. Voke recently completed four years at Iowa State University where his coach Andrew Tank proudly boasts he's the "best golfer in the programme's history".

"I feel very comfortable living in America my whole support team's there. My friends are there, my girlfriend's there. So the last thing for me is to get my Tour status to be over there."

But that is merely a stepping stone for the former Manurewa High School student.

"Hopefully I get the Tour card. Play a full year there. The Top 25 are guaranteed a start on the PGA Tour for the following year. So that's where we're going at the moment."

For now, Voke can enjoy his time away from the golf course in Thailand. Not only is he plotting his way from China back to America but his recent success means he's also in position to play a special golf tournament in Toyko.

His ranking in the current Olympic qualification window sees him New Zealand's top seed for the 2020 Games, with Ryan Fox in second position.

Just another unexpected opportunity presenting itself thanks to a dream rookie year in the professional ranks.