Big smile for the champion: German’s Esther Henseleit defends her MKLO title

German's Esther Henseleit displays her trophy after emerging the overall winner of the 2022 Magical Kenya Ladies Open at Vipingo Baobab Ridge Course in Kilifi County on February 13 2022.[Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

German’s Esther Henseleit came from behind to card a combined total of 286 gross to retain her Magical Kenya Ladies Open title at the par 72 Vipingo Baobab Ridge Course in Kilifi County yesterday evening.

The 23 year old German defied all the odds to emerge the overall winner in the four-day tourney that attracted 94 world class lady professionals.

Players celebrate with Esther Henseleit after she won the 2022 Magical Kenya Ladies Open at the PGA Baobab COurse, Vipingo Ridge, Kilifi County on February 13, 2022. [ Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

The final day turned out to be dramatic as the German international who was trailing Sweden's Linnea Strom for the better part of the day rallied her shots to close the gap and claim the prestigious title.

Henseleit from Hamburger Golf Club defended the trophy she won in 2019. The victory saw pocket Sh5.8 million in prize money.

She started off round one on Thursday in fifteenth place ,tied fifth with Sweden’s Karoline Lund on second round on Friday before moving to third slot tied with her compatriot Sophie Hausmann on Saturday.

The golfer completed her comeback on the final day-yesterday-with a 2 under par 70 gross to move top of the leaderboard.

“It has been windy quite different from 2019. Pin positions was tricky, landed in water hazard but I played cool to claim the victory. It has been nice to be back to this beautiful country and looking forward to come back again. I also thank the organisers, sponsors and the Club for making the event successful,” said Henseleit.

Henseleit was one stroke ahead of Spain’s Marta Sanz Barrio who had a combined score of 287gross (72-76-70-69) while the round one, two and three leader Linnea Strom from Sweden settled for the third slot on a round score of 290gross (68-73-72-77).  

The tourney is the 31st event in the Ladies European Tour (LET) 2022 Calendar to be played in 21 countries worldwide.

It returned to Kenya after a two-year absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Focus now shifts to the Aramco Saudi Ladies International Presented by Public Investment Fund at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in Saudi Arabia on March 17-20.

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, who was  flanked among others,  Sports CS Amina Mohamed and Tourism CS Najib Balala, congratulated the winners, the golfers and stakeholders for making the event a success.

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta presents the Magical Kenya Ladies Open trophy to Esther Henseleit after she won the 2022 event at Vipingo Baobab Ridge Course on February 13 2022. [Maarufu Mohamed]

“The increasing numbers of women in this tournament demonstrates the opportunities and inspiration for more women to join the golfing sport," said the First Lady.

"It is an honour for Kenya to be hosting this prestigious Ladies Open after a two-year interruption following the Covid-19 Pandemic. We are proud that in 2020, Kenya was voted as the best golf destination in Africa at the World Golf Awards. This tournament, therefore, is another indication of Kenya's diligence and commitment to hosting world-class sporting events."

Meanwhile, 20 junior golfers underwent a golf clinic on Saturday carried out by four of the LET professionals and Kenyan amateur Naomi Wafula at Vipingo Baobab Ridge Course.

The team comprising of Alex Swayne, Rochelle Morris, Gabrielle Macdonald and Luiza Altmann together with Naomi Wafula took the juniors through the clinic’s program.

Vipingo Ridge's Director of Golf Saleem Haji said the clinic is aimed inspiring the next generation of golfers and showcase how sport can be leveraged to uplift quality of life for Kenyans.

"Part of the agreement we have with the government and the sponsors is that we have to use some of the funds we get to grow the game. We thank the U.S. Kids Golf organisation for coming on board and conducting training sessions for the coaches which is really unique and effective for kids," said Haji.