This week we change it up a bit, we can’t be talking about football all the time, this is a Sports Centre after all. Motlalentoa Moloi has been Lesotho’s number one professional golfer since turning pro in 2004. Since this article was written Baitsi Motsamai, Tieho Mochebelele, Tlotliso Khabo and Tung-Nan Lin have also turned professional but they are yet to be as active as Moloi who competes on the Sunshine Tour.
While Angel Cabrera was gleefully adorning himself with The Green Jacket at the US Masters last week, the greens of the Chapman Golf Club in Harare, Zimbabwe were being adorned by lesser golfers, hoping to one day emulate the Argentine’s feats.
But while southern Africa’s prospects were competing at the 2009 Zone VI International Amateur Golf Team Games, Lesotho was conspicuous by its absence.
One of those who were confined to their living room is Motlalentoa Moloi, Lesotho’s only professional golfer. Moloi, 38, is a member of the South African Sunshine Tour, a golf tour frequently frequented by the regal likes of Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. Sadly, like his countrymen, Moloi was unable to pit his wits against his continental counterparts.
Lesotho did not send a team to the 2009 Zone VI edition due to a chronic lack of resources. “We didn’t go because there were no funds. In the past we didn’t really have a team to represent the country,” Moloi says. “However we spent all this time building a promising squad. Sadly we couldn’t send them to the games.”
Unlike football, golf is not a mainstream sport in Lesotho and not sending a team to such games stunts any progress. Indeed in the last twelve years Lesotho has only sent a team to the Zone VI golf games on four occasions, in 1997, 1998, 2001 and last year.
It’s a massive disappointment to Moloi, who as a professional, coaches the national team, “It’s disappointing because we felt we would have done better this time around,” he affirms. “We have put together a good young team.”
Moloi’s optimism is brought about by Lesotho’s performance at last year’s Zone VI games that were held Zambia. “Last year we got three points,” he says.
“It’s not great,” Moloi admits. “But it’s an improvement on the previous tournament (in 2001) where we got two and a half points.”
On that occasion Moloi contributed one and a half of the team’s points total as Lesotho finished last. In 2008 the country improved to a ninth-place finish.
The Zone VI golf championships are contested by ten countries; South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Swaziland, Malawi, Tanzania and Lesotho. “I feel we could have made the top five this time around,” Moloi insists.
Still, failure to prepare is preparing to fail, and as with other sports in the country, under-preparedness is a major cause for Lesotho’s perennial underachievement. “At last year’s games we arrived late. We arrived the day before the tournament began so were unable to have any proper preparation. As a result for the first two days our performance was poor. But as the team got used to the conditions they improved,” Moloi says
Any significant improvement to the country’s golf however will depend on financial help. “All the nations there (Zone VI games) are helped financially by their governments,” Moloi laments.
“When you aren’t able to send a team to such games it reflects badly on the country. The association went to the LSRC (Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission) to ask for money but there was none available,” Moloi adds. “If you compare Lesotho to Zimbabwe for example, then we are a long way behind when it comes to support and sponsorship. Zimbabwe for all its troubles is second only to South Africa when it comes to golf in Africa. There is not enough support for sport in general in Lesotho and for golf it’s even worse.”
Yet despite all the glaring difficulties, Moloi remains optimistic about the future of golf in the country. “Since 2003 there has been a big increase in the numbers of people playing golf in particular amongst younger ages,” he says.
In particular Moloi sees a few gems shining especially bright. “Baitsi Motsamai, Tieho Mochebele, Tlotliso Khabo and Tung-Nan Lin,” he beams.
Lin, a Chinese national, represented Lesotho at last year’s Zone VI games and Moloi believes Lin and his mates have the capacity to become professionals. “Within a year they can turn professional,” he smiles before adding. “(But) they are not the only ones with talent, I look at the young players in general and they are very promising.”
Turning professional however is a potential minefield in itself and with trepidation Moloi adds: “Then again, if they do turn professional with no sponsorship then we will be destroying them (because) they won’t have the support to pursue their careers.”
It’s a minefield that Moloi knows all too well. Since turning professional in 2004 hardships off the greens have invariably led to sub-standard performances on them. “It’s difficult to go to all the tour events because I have no support,” he stresses. “You have a tournament in Durban one week then in Johannesburg the other. You have to have time to prepare because conditions differ,” he says.
Moloi adds: “Per year I play eight or nine tournaments which is not enough.”
So what do the next twelve months hold for Moloi? “You can’t make plans because when you have no sponsors you are not sure what will come,” he says. “You can’t have a set a schedule and therefore set targets.”
Nevertheless, for Moloi, the inferno of golfing passion is far from extinguishing.
His desire is to see his sport spread and flourish throughout Lesotho. Presently golf in Lesotho is concentrated exclusively in the capital Maseru. “I would love to see golf played all over the country one day,” Moloi says.
“Golf is not a sport about money at all, anyone can play.”
But with the more mainstream sports played in Lesotho, why did Moloi choose golf? “I got into golf because I found it more demanding than other sports,” he says. “I played football, taekwondo and tennis but golf was the most challenging.”
In which way?
“Golf is not just about hitting the ball hard. Golf makes you think and to me it is comparable to the daily challenges that we face in life,” Moloi says. “There are many hazards on a golf course and you have to make the right decisions to stay out of trouble.”
For the record South Africa won Zone VI games ahead of Zimbabwe to defend their title. For Lesotho the biggest challenge right now is just getting onto the golf course.