For a lot of ladies, sport is not always a favourite pastime, least of all golf.
However, for sports enthusiast, Minkie Molatlhegi, who is not only obsessed with the beautiful game of football but swinging clubs and hitting balls into holes, the ‘gentlemen’s sport’ presents an opportunity to make and close deals while having fun.
Growing up in Phikwe, the left-handed lady played volleyball in junior high school and would go on to become captain of Matshekge Senior Secondary School.
When she arrived in Gaborone for higher learning in 2008, the Mmadinare-born go-getter would meet Botswana Ladies Golf Union (BLGU) President, Nina Cloete, who recruited some 40 or so young University of Botswana ladies to play golf. One by one, the lasses quickly lost interest, save for the impressive champ in the making…
Voice Woman took time to speak to the 40-year-old, who is certainly making a mark on the African turf. A member of Jwaneng Golf Club who has actually won a diamond in Orapa, the mother-of-two has won every tournament she’s played in regionally and continentally: fourteen to be precise!
Let’s get to know you; who is Minkie Molatlhegi?
I was born in Mmadinare but grew up in Selebi Phikwe, where I did all my schooling from Standard 1 to Form 3, then went to Matshekge to do Form 4 & 5. I then went to UB for tertiary education. I am a mother of two lovely boys.
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A male-dominated and elitist sport, golf is fast gaining popularity among women locally. When did you start taking an interest in it and what inspired you?
I took an interest in golf as a student at UB. The then BLGU President, Nina Cloete, encouraged most of the UB female students to join and play golf; it was around 40 of us. All of them left along the way except me. I remain standing till today. I was inspired by the fact that there were few ladies playing, and most of them were older, so I wanted to be among them and be one of the youngest lady players. I was president of Golf Ladies in Botswana for 4 years.
Are your children also into golf?
I introduced my boys to golf but they got bored and opted to play football instead. They think golf is for older people and prefare to interact with their peers playing football. They are actually gifted; the older boy is a striker while his little brother is a good left back and, like mummy, he is left-handed.
Apparently one has to have good hand-eye coordination. Share with us your early experiences learning to play. How daunting was it?
Yes, one has to be able to coordinate and have a sharp eye to be able to hit a straight ball, combined with posture and the swing of the hands, they have to be aligned in a certain way whenever one addresses to hit the ball, the coordination is important to hit a good shot.
It is said the golf course is a place where deals are closed, and worthwhile connections made. Tell us more about that?
Very true, most golfers are businessmen/women and if one wants to close a good business deal, it has always been on a golf course, we usually discuss business while playing golf, if you want to talk serious business it’s always good and promising to do that while having fun at the same time
What are your favourite courses?
My favorite golf courses are Phikwe and Sowa; they are brown courses and I always play well in there. As for the green courses, I love Jwaneng and Gaborone Golf courses. However, South Africa and Thailand golf courses are the best. I also enjoyed the Portugal courses; they are magnificent!
Besides the obvious health benefits, what other gains are there?
Benefits include discussing and closing business deals. One also gets a chance to interact, mingle and socialise with different people from all walks of life.
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The hot Botswana sun can be unforgiving in summer…
I use a good sunscreen and an umbrella. I also play very early before it gets too hot.
What major tournaments have you competed in?
I have played a lot of tournaments, but just to mention a few: in Tunisia at the AACT – All Africa Challenge Trophy – a biennial continental ladies golf championship in Africa that began in 1992. I also played in the RAACT in Namibia, eSwatini, Botswana and the Triangular in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, as well as the International World Pairs in Portugal, the Medal in Thailand and the Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho and South Africa Opens, and Nigeria. I have won in all these tournaments; have been a champion in most of them and became runner-up in some of them and I have won Club Championships in Gaborone many times. I am the reigning champion for Jwaneng Golf Club and also the champion for many Open championships in the country. As we are amateurs, we don’t win cash, if it’s cash, it’s usually limited to P5 000 only, but non-cash prizes can be as big as P30k or even more. I once won a Diamond in Orapa!
Can it be a lucrative sport for those who choose to go pro in Botswana? Are women’s tourneys able to attract enough sponsors?
Unfortunately, it’s not a lucrative sport to be a golf professional in Botswana, we are disadvantaged by the small population, no willing sponsors to sponsor aspiring golf professionals in Botswana so it’s better to just play for fun like I’m doing nowadays, omens tourneys are not enough to attract sponsors
Club memberships can be unaffordable thus restrictive. Do I need to be a member of a club to start?
You don’t have to be a club member to start, usually when u start you just learn how to hit a ball and learn golf rules with a professional golfer and once you are ok and ready to start you can always pay and belong to a certain club and play local and international tournaments.
What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced as a female golfer?
I am left-handed, it’s a disadvantage because there are very few left-handed golfers in the whole world, so it’s very difficult to get the ladies’ clubs for left-handers. I’m actually using the men’s clubs because I couldn’t find the ones designed for the ladies at the Pro Shop in Johannesburg where I but my golf merchandise. Local outlets have limited golf merchandise and are more pricey because they also buy from SA.
It’s also difficult for other people to teach me golf since they get confused when they are teaching me, but 1 or 2 coaches do understand me. they are there but
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For aspirant women golfers, what do they need to know to be successful golfers?
They need to first have the love, because playing golf is no child’s play, you need to have a budget for golf, time for golf and be ready to be playing in harsh weather conditions be a good learner and listen and learn from those with experience
In your club, do you mentor the next generation of golfers to ensure continuity and growth of the sport?
Yes, I do mentor the new ones quite frequently.