Inicio News Defending champion Henseleit relaxed and relishing Kenya return

Defending champion Henseleit relaxed and relishing Kenya return

Magical Kenya Ladies Open, Vipingo Ridge Golf Club, Kilifi County, Kenya. Dec 5-8 2019 Esther Henseleit of Germany with her trophy . Credit: Tristan Jones
Magical Kenya Ladies Open, Vipingo Ridge Golf Club, Kilifi County, Kenya. Dec 5-8 2019 Esther Henseleit of Germany with her trophy . Credit: Tristan Jones

Esther Henseleit, who won the inaugural edition of the Magical Kenya Ladies Open back in 2019, is enjoying being back at the place of her maiden LET title.

The German produced a stunning final-day 64 (-8) to seal victory at the 2019 LET season finale and with it, Henseleit was crowned Order of Merit winner and Rookie of the Year.

The 23-year-old heads the field this week as 94 players battle it out over 72 holes in the 2022 edition of the Magical Kenya Ladies Open at Vipingo Ridge.

And Henseleit, who is no. 104 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, remembers those final few holes of her triumph well and the nerves that came along with it.

“It is pretty cool being back! It is over two years ago now and so much has happened in between, but it is a very nice place to come back to and I have very good memories here,” she said.

“I can remember every shot of the back nine, and how I was shaking a little bit on the last three or four holes and just trying to survive.

“It’s definitely something new being a defending champion, I’ve never been in the situation before where I’ve had to defend my title, so it’s pretty cool.”

Reflecting on the scenes back in 2019, Henseleit admits she was not happy after carding a 71 in the third round to be at a total of six-under-par.

But the German came out fighting and within the first nine holes of her final round, she had closed the gap to the lead.

“I remember being very disappointed after the third round because I felt like I wasn’t playing well and had no chance,” she continued.

“I just knew I had to do something special on Sunday to turn it around, and I played really good and had a great start which helped me to close that gap after nine holes.

“Then I knew that I did have a chance and to bring it home was really special, it was one of the most special moments of my life.”

It wasn’t just the LET victory Henseleit took home as the win also put her at the top of the rankings and she became the third player in LET history to win both the Order of Merit and Rookie of the Year in the same season.

“With the Order of Merit, I was falling behind in the rankings, so I had it in my mind that I really wanted to win this,” she explained.

“I knew what I had to do, and at the time I had quite high expectations coming here and in the end, it was pretty special to get it done.”

Fast forward to 2022 and Henseleit believes she is a different golfer to the one she was in 2019. She has worked on many aspects of her game but knows there is still work to be done.

And despite the pressure of being a defending champion, the 23-year-old is taking it in her stride and is focused on playing well rather than the result.

She added: “I feel pretty relaxed coming here, I won’t put too many expectations on myself, of course I want to play well and maybe even win, but I’m a new golfer and a new person now so we’ll see how it goes.

“I’m a bit more grown up now, but I’m still not the perfect golfer yet, I’m still working on that.”

Julia Engstrom. Credit: Tristan Jones.
Julia Engstrom. Credit: Tristan Jones.

Engström happy to be back on Tour

Injury is part and parcel of life as a professional athlete and returning can feel like a victory, that is certainly the case for Julia Engström.

The Swede had a scintillating start to life on Tour when she won the LET’s Rookie of the Year in 2018 at the age of just 17.

Four top-10 finishes the following year including third at the 2019 Magical Kenya Ladies Open saw her star rise further and in 2020, she recorded her breakthrough victory at the Women’s NSW Open.

A few months later, Engström was in the winner’s circle again at the Lacoste Ladies Open but struggled with a back injury at the end of the year pulling out of the final event.

Despite this, the 2017 PING Junior Solheim Cup player finished still second in the 2020 Race to Costa del Sol with three further top-10 finishes that season.

“I had two slipped discs in my back which made my legs numb and the nerves were stuck, so it was a long journey back and I’m glad to be back,” she said.

“I didn’t have surgery so it was so frustrating just waiting it out and just hoping that it would get better so I could play again, and I just had to try to get back to my best.”

In her time away from the sport, Engström made sure she kept herself busy once she realised, she would have to go longer not playing golf.

“At the beginning I didn’t do a lot, I did a lot of rehab to try and get back playing golf, but then I realised I couldn’t,” she explained.

“So, I did some studies as well at university and tried to give myself something to do because otherwise I’d go crazy! I was helping out at my local golf club as well.

“Plus, I got to spend time with family and friends that I hadn’t seen as much in the previous years and because Sweden didn’t have lockdowns it meant I was able to do most things as normal.”

After clinching two victories on the LET, you could argue the 20-year-old would immediately want to get back to her best.

But coming back on Tour was the main goal and the Swede is being realistic with her expectations ahead of her return.

“Right now, my main focus is just to go out there and get going, and hopefully I can pick up from where I left off,” she continued.

“My main goal before was to just get back here, so now I am I’m happy to be here. The goal is always to play good, but you have to be realistic and realise it’s not going to happen straight away. Obviously, I hope I do but it’s all about getting back into it.

“I had quite a bit of pain in the last tournament I played in Saudi in 2020 but I don’t think I will again. It’s still in the back of your head but I’m just trying not to focus on that and keep hitting my shots and play my best.

“At the beginning I was rusty, as I hadn’t had a swing in so long, but it got better with time. I did some swing changes as well, so I’ve basically started from zero.”

At the last edition of the Magical Kenya Ladies Open, Engström led after three rounds and ended up finishing in third place.

But the two-time LET winner believes the disappointment of not securing victory made her stronger and she is pleased to be back at Vipingo Ridge.

She added: “It was a learning experience last time, I got back home and evaluated it but then had to put it behind me and tried to move forward and ended up winning twice the season after.

“It’s great to be back, the course is great but it’s a bit more windy this year so that will be a challenge for us all. I’m excited to be back!”