gsport’s January Woman, Betty Mokoena, epitomizes the saying: “Age ain’t nothing but a number”. At 22, Betty has already achieved what most people dream of. Not only does she get to play golf, the sport she so dearly loves, but she is able to give back in the most significant way, as a mentor at the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation (EEFF).
As we wondered who to feature as our Woman of the month for January, we were tipped off about Betty’s credentials by gsport’s 2007 Woman of the Year, Lesley Copeman, who said: “I think you should feature Betty Mokoena. She is a product of the SA Golf development board and is now giving back to the growth of the game.”
We thank Lesley for introducing us to this special young woman, who is a living example that South Africa possesses great leaders, both young and old, who are committed to helping our country’s youth achieve their potential.
Betty first represented South Africa in 2003 and in 2006, she won the Zambia Open. Her goal for 2008 is to get back to competitive golf and take her game to a new level. She is also keen to learn more about life in order to be a better mentor to the members of the EEFF and to be able to impart more knowledge.
She has certainly come a long way from the days when she and her young brothers staged their very own “British Open” on a soccer field, which they called “The Links” and its evident she is keen to show others that anything is possible.
With role models like Nelson Mandela, Ernie Els, and Oprah Winfrey, there is no doubt that Betty will go on to achieve great successes as a leader in South Africa whatever projects she chooses to get involved in.
We are in awe of her dedication to helping others empower themselves and her dream to give South Africa’s children the opportunity to become great leaders.
Introducing gsport’s 2008 January Woman, the truly inspirational Betty Mokoena!
Betty, when did you start playing golf?
I started when I was 9 but really started playing when I was 14. The thing that attracted me is the same for most people, and that is it looks so easy when you watching and you wonder why everyone is stressing so much, and I found out when I hit my first shot.
At what age did you really started taking it seriously as a sport?
When I started playing on a real golf course, not the soccer field my brothers and I used to call “The Links” and that was the venue for our “British Open” which was held daily… LOL
Who have been the biggest influencers on your golf career?
I have a lot of people to thank but the most credit must go to Ernie Els, Gauteng Ladies Golf, and the Ekhuruleni Golf Trust. Those are the people played a huge role in my career and I’m truly grateful.
What have been some of your biggest career highlights?
Winning the Zambia Open in 2006. and representing my country for the first time in 2003.
Right now I’m working for the EEFF while doing my PGA (qualification to be a Golf teaching pro and other golf related profusions).
Tell us about your work at the Foundation?
I joined the Foundation in 2002 as a member (players) and I was asked to take up the role as a mentor to the current members when I completed my studies in Sports Science. My role is to assist with the coaching, travelling, school work, support and guidance to the members when needed.
Why are you so passionate about golf development?
When I think about what the game has done for me as a young black girl from an underprivileged environment… I see it as a great way to empower people and enforce life skill qualities which will groom the future leaders of the country.
What advice do you have for women and young girls keen to take up golf?
If you thinking about it don’t waste anymore time and just do it. It will be the best decision you’ll ever make, you will learn more things about yourself on the golf course than anywhere else. It’s the best game ever invented.
Tell us about the colours you’ve received…
I received my junior, senior, and student colours.
I plan to get back into competitive golf and taking my game to the next level. My main goal is to grow and learn more about life in order to be a better mentor to the members and to be able to impart more knowledge.
What do you enjoy most about golf?
The fact that it brings out the best and the worst in me, it gives me a true reflection of who I am. The other thing is the fact that it’s the only game where a beginner can play against a pro in equal playing fields as a result of the handicap system.
Who are some of your favourite golfers?
Ernie Els, Gary Player because they are the greatest ambassadors of SA Golf; Nancy Lopez because I grew up watching her play; Annika Sorenstam because she raised the level of interest in women’s golf; And Tiger Woods for what he has achieved and how he just keeps on doing it year after year and what is only because of his hard work and passion for the game.
Which South African women do you admire?
My mother because she has been through thick and thin with me and has kept me going when it got tough. I am the woman I am today because of her principles and values. I pray that I can be as strong and good a mother as she is one day.
The game is growing a lot in the country especially with women. I think this country has a lot of talent and resources to produce world class players, which we have achieved when you look at some our players like Sally Little, Ashleigh Simon, and Laurette Maritz.
My feeling is a lot is being done to develop the sport in the country, and it will take time to get more Ashleighs. If we can raise awareness a bit more and make the sport as popular as soccer for example then we will have more and more kids lining up to play.
What are your other favourite sports?
I love just about every sport, when I don’t understand it I then ask or simply watch till I figure it out. But soccer, rugby, and cricket are at the top of my list.
How do you keep fit?
I have to be honest I haven’t looked after myself this past year. I do go to the gym but not as often as I would like to and that is one of the main areas I have to look at if I want to take my game to the next level.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
My father told me if the sun goes down without learning anything new, then that day was a waste. I always ask myself what I have learnt today, before I go to bed.
Femininity starts from within, its something we all have. God gave it to, it is natural, and it will only come out when we are true to ourselves. It’s the same as all women having a motherly instinct.
To me it plays a big role in my life because the correctors of femininity such as gentleness, soft touch, being cool, calm and collected, are what I need on the golf course, and for the development of the game, which is what I’m striving for.
What message do you have for women struggling to find their passion in life?
I relate passion with love and happiness, one has to think about what it is that they love doing and get joy from it, and they must follow through with it. When your heart is in it you will work harder at it, and the harder you work the more successful you will become.
I want to look back at my life one day and realize I have done everything I want to do. I want to be the best I can possibly be, use what God has given me to the fullest, that’s what drives me to keep moving forward even when I feel I can’t.
Who are your role models?
My mother, Nelson Mandela, Oprah, and Ernie Els.
What is your greatest ambition?
My childhood dream has always been to play golf at the highest level, which I am working on, but now that is only a part of my ultimate dream, and that is to make a difference in the world whether its with one person or a 100.
I want to be able to give to others what I have been given and even more, to give the kids the opportunity to become great leaders so that they can also empower or influence even more kids and hopefully it will manifest and help solve most of the problems we are facing today such as poverty, AIDS, and crime.