Leading lady of golf

Portia Mlilo

First female professional golfer

Ouname Mhotsha is Botswana’s first female professional golfer and currently based in the USA playing for Alcorn State University.

At the age of 15 she was already dominating the golf ranks in Botswana as a junior where she attained 16 academic wins to date which include two international wins.

In 2017, the 27-year-old Siviya Village born golfer, received scholarship to study Masters of Science in Forest Resources from the University of Arkansas in Monticello, USA.

The 2012 Leduamang Senior Sportswoman of the year award winner, Mhotsha was recently selected to be part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Young Leaders Programme which will run from this year to 2026.

Leading lady of golf

Our Reporter Portia Mlilo had a chat with Mhotsha about her sports career and the IOC programme.

Q. What inspired you to play golf?

My father introduced me to the sport but the person that inspired me was my immediate younger brother, he is super talented and just watching him play pushed me to work hard.

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As I grew older I realized that golf had a lot of personal, financial, and educational benefits so I got inspired to take it to higher levels.

Q. Who discovered your talent (coach)?

My talent was discovered by coaches that were part of the FNB golf development clinics in the mid-2000.

My father then hired a personal coach by the name of Edwin Madigela who coached me throughout my childhood.

Q. There is a perception that golf is an expensive sport, what’s your take on that?

I do agree that it is an expensive sport but I also believe that so is everything that is worth investing in because nothing comes cheap in life.

However, I do believe that there are ways that golf can be made more accessible to lower income communities to help in decreasing the societal inequalities.

Q. Your sister Khensani Mhotsha is also captain of the Botswana Golf Junior national team, are you the one who inspired her to join the sport?

I do believe part of my purpose is to be a trailblazer for young girls who play golf in Africa and she gets to be part of next generation of golfers alongside other African girls.

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Q. How much did relocating to the US help in terms of improving your play?

It has helped me a lot because golf is very big in the US, it part of high school sports so kids learnt it in a structured form at an early age in preparation for college golf and ultimately professional golf.

Therefore being in such a developed country definitely has its perks.

Q. What are some of your greatest achievement as a player?

They are quite a few but the first one was in 2012 when I was a student at Ledumang Senior Secondary School and awarded Sportsperson of the year award.

I was also the captain of the University of Arkansas in Monticello Women’s Golf team to a 1st place finish at the NCAA Division II Heat in March 2021.

The other achievement was when I became the first Female Professional Golf Tour Player from Botswana this year and the appointment into the IOC Young Leaders Programme.

Q. And the other end of the scale, what are some of your lowlights?

The period between Senior Secondary School (high school) and the first two years of University when I was forced to choose between golf and school since there is no college golf in Botswana was very difficult for me.

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I knew I was supposed to do both and I couldn’t do one without the other because they are equally as important for my purpose.

Q. Female participation in sport is much lower than male representation. Why do you think that is the case?

I think some of it may be cultural or societal beliefs and lack of education. For instance, from my experience the girls that I used to play with didn’t find golf valuable or they didn’t look at it as a possible career path because they had never seen it done by anyone.

Q. What can be done to address this?

I believe we can start with raising awareness and providing education to highlight the possible benefits of sports at different levels because not everyone wants or is able to play professional sports but there are other career opportunities and economic benefits available once someone is within a certain sporting industry.

Q. What do you think can be done to improve golf’ status locally?

We can start by making golf accessible to people of all age groups especially in areas where there are golf courses already.

If we combine accessibility with education about the sport, I believe we can see a difference in our golf status.

Q. You were recently selected for the IOC young leaders programme, how do you feel about it?

I am very grateful and honored to be selected as an IOC Young Leader.

This is a great achievement which I believe will help in my project of developing young golfers.

Q. Kindly tell our readers about the programme.

This is a four-year programme that will support young leaders chosen from more than 360 applicants because they have demonstrated their passion for using sport as a tool for social and economic change.

The young leaders are balanced in terms of gender and diversity, representing 25 countries across five continents.

They will be supported in the creation of grassroots sport-based initiatives aimed at addressing issues in their communities.

Q. What makes a great athlete?

I believe what makes a great athlete is when that athlete is able to step into their purpose and be confident to be unique in their journey.

Q. I understand you have an organization Thanya Monana, please tell our readers about its mandate?

Thanya Monana is an organization that is still in its early development stages.

The organization seeks to utilize learnt experience and knowledge to expose the youth who come from underserved communities to the growth and empowerment opportunities within different industries that are not accessible to them including the sport of golf.

Q. What are some of your organization achievements?

Our first achievement is submitting a project idea to the IOC Young Leaders Committee and getting selected for 4 years of funding.

Q. Tell us about your upcoming Fundraising Golf Day, what is its objective?

The objective of the Ouname Mhotsha Fundraising Golf Day taking place at Stanbic Bank Gaborone Golf Club on June 30, 2023 is to host an event that can help with raising funds for professional golf expenses while providing a space for youth business owners to benefit from the networking opportunities from the event sponsors.

We also want to use this event to invite non-golfers to come and learn about golf and what the sport has to offer for them.

Q. What are your career future plans?

I want to play in a Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Event because that is the highest level of professional golf competition.

I also want to qualify for the Olympics with the Botswana national team and to become an LPGA or PGA-certified teaching member after retiring from playing professional golf.

My other dream is to establish partnerships to support golf development programs in Botswana and across underserved communities in Africa.

Q. Who is your inspiration?

I am inspired by what God can do with a human being, to be a trailblazer is not an easy task so every step that I take forward is always mind-blowing and it is a great inspiration for me to stay on my purpose and keep trusting God.

Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

It will either be golf, hiking with friends, spending time alone outdoors in a park or indoors singing and dancing to some music from home.

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