Positive attitude powers Juliana Botero Molina’s golf game

UNK junior Juliana Botero Molina has six finishes inside the top 10 through eight varsity events in 2023-24. (Photo by Todd Gottula, UNK Communications) UNK junior Juliana Botero Molina has six finishes inside the top 10 through eight varsity events in 2023-24. (Photo by Todd Gottula, UNK Communications)

KEARNEY – Before each round, University of Nebraska at Kearney golfer Juliana Botero Molina takes out a notebook and jots down a few thoughts.

These messages have nothing to do with club selection or pin placements. They’re a reminder of the things she’s grateful for and the reasons why she loves this sport.

“My goal is to wake up every day and be thankful for something,” Botero Molina says. “When I write it down, I’m telling myself to focus on what works for me.”

Golf can be a notoriously frustrating game, but the junior from Medellin, Colombia, has learned you don’t get anywhere by dwelling on the negative.

“Golf is such a mental game, and that’s what I love,” she said. “I’m not going to beat another girl just because I hit it farther. It’s because I’m going to have a better attitude than her.

“The feeling I love the most is when I stand on a tee box after a bogey and I go, ‘I’m going to birdie this hole.’ It’s such a self-fulfilling game. I’m not going to rely on the other girl to mess up. You have to beat them by playing your game. Getting better every day and finding what works for me is what motivates me.”

That positivity is one of the first things UNK head coach Shawn Rodehorst noticed when he started recruiting Botero Molina in fall 2020. Because of the logistical challenges, he’d always been hesitant to go after international players, but this prospect stood out.

“Anybody who talks to her knows how personable she is and how her bubbly personality shines through, even on FaceTime and phone calls,” Rodehorst said. “The lens that she views life through is honestly very admirable, and it’s something that you don’t see a lot these days.”

Her ability on the golf course is easy to identify, too.

“She has a very natural, fluid swing. That’s something you can see right away on a swing video,” Rodehorst said. “The natural ability really jumps off the page.”

Rodehorst and Botero Molina never met in person during the recruiting process. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented that from happening.

She committed to UNK sight unseen, knowing she’d be fairly close to her older sister Isabel, who plays golf at Metropolitan State University in Denver.

“I just went with my gut and trusted it,” Botero Molina said. “I had a really good connection with Shawn – he’s an amazing coach – and I felt really good about it right off the bat.”


Botero Molina arrived in Kearney in fall 2021 as a 16-year-old freshman.

Rodehorst vividly recalls her first tournament, where she was competing against players six or seven years older at Adams Pointe Golf Club in Blue Springs, Missouri. On the 17th hole, a par 3, she hit her tee shot into a greenside bunker.

“It’s OK. I love the bunkers. Don’t worry,” she told her coach.

The next shot was decent, but not great, stopping about 20 feet from the cup.

“It’s OK. I’m going to make that. Don’t worry,” Botero Molina assured him before draining the putt. She carded a 4-over 148 during the 36-hole tournament – three shots off the school record at that time – and tied for fourth individually.

“I’m like, OK. This girl is a little different,” Rodehorst said. “If she says she’s going to do something, she’s going to do it. If she sets her mind to something, it’s going to be hard for anyone to stop her.”

Botero Molina went on to have one of the best freshman years in UNK history, playing in all 24 rounds and finishing with a season scoring average of 77.54. She and teammate Faviola Gonzalez (77.04) both beat the previous school record in that stat category.

The Lopers won their first-ever MIAA title that spring, with Botero Molina tying for sixth at the three-day event.

Botero Molina played in all 31 varsity rounds as a sophomore, earning her second All-MIAA honorable mention recognition and posting a team-best 77.71 season scoring average. She tied for 18th at the MIAA Championships and 20th at the Central Regional, where UNK shot a school-record 886 over 54 holes to qualify for the NCAA Division II Championships for the first time in program history.

One of three returning starters, Botero Molina has six finishes inside the top 10 through eight varsity events in 2023-24, including a tie for second place at the Hillcat Classic in Owasso, Oklahoma, and a third-place performance at the Midwest Intercollegiate in Bolivar, Missouri. UNK has two team victories so far.

For her career, Botero Molina has three 18-hole scores of 70, tied for the fourth-best round in school history, and she’s carded a 148 three times, tied for the seventh-best 36-hole score. Her career scoring average of 77.64 entering fall 2023 would set a new Loper record.

“It’s been really fun to watch her development,” Rodehorst said. “I think she can be as good as she wants to be.”


Both Botero Molina and her coach admit there were some struggles as she adjusted to the Nebraska weather.

She was used to playing in tournaments year-round back in Colombia, and the gusty Midwest winds can be a real challenge for someone who prefers a higher ball flight.

“I don’t hate the weather here, but I wish it was more like how it is in Colombia,” Botero Molina said with a smile.

She definitely doesn’t let any adverse conditions get her down.

Botero Molina speaks Spanish, English and French and embraces her reputation as the chatty player on the course. She loves to learn about her opponents and make new friends during competitions.

“I don’t consider myself to be very competitive, which is kind of crazy being an athlete,” she said. “Of course, deep down you want to beat the person you’re playing with, but that’s never my main focus.”

Her goal is to simply enjoy life each and every day.

“It doesn’t matter how cold it is or how windy it is, I’m just glad to be here,” Botero Molina said. “I’m really happy with my choice and I wouldn’t change it.”