Esther Henseleit needs a victory in the Magical Kenya Ladies Open presented by Safaricom’s M-Pesa which starts tomorrow to win the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit race.
The 20-year-old from Niedersachsen in Germany is the only player who can eclipse front-runner Marianne Skarpnord in the season-ending event at Vipingo Ridge, near Mombasa.
Should she succeed, she would follow Dame Laura Davies and Carlota Ciganda as only the third player in the 41-year history of the LET to win the ranking and Rookie of the Year prize simultaneously.
Henseleit has already wrapped up the Rookie Race on account of eight top-10 finishes this season and starts this week with a healthy 377 point lead ahead of India’s Diksha Dagar, who won the Investec South African Women’s Open.
“I really wanted to win that ranking this year, so that’s good. The others had a chance to catch me, but I feel like since the La Reserva de Sotogrande Invitational, in Spain, there’s been a huge gap between me and Diksha, so the pressure was off in that respect,” said Henseleit, who interestingly shot 70 to win the individual prize in the Pro-Am on Wednesday, by one-stroke over Skarpnord.
The winner in Kenya this week earns 150 order of merit points, with 90 on offer for second position.
“To win the order of merit, I need to win, and I’m trying to win every week. I’ll try to enjoy it here and have a good time and if I play well, that will be ideal, but if I’m second or third on the order of merit, that’s also pretty good for my first year.
“My swing feels good, but it also did last week and I had one really bad round. I hope I can keep it together and play well.
“The course is really challenging and pretty. The views of the sea are great and I heard that the beach is really nice. This resort is fantastic and the villas in which we are staying are nice. The golf course is really good and the greens are different to what we normally play on in Europe, so that’s going to be interesting for the next few days.
“Today I didn’t have any pitch marks on the greens and I feel that with the long irons, they kick a lot on the greens, but when you’re chipping, the ball stops immediately. They are a bit slower than last week in Spain, but that’s alright.
“I really enjoy playing out here on the LET and travelling to different countries. Of course, it’s a bit sad that you don’t get to see that much, but I also enjoy being around the German girls and meeting international players from around the world. It’s a great atmosphere out here.”
Henseleit, who finished third at LET Qualifying School 12 months ago and turned professional with a handicap of +7.1, started the season with back-to-back top-10 finishes in the Pacific Bay Resort Australian Classic – Bonville and the ActewAGL Canberra Classic. After a tie for 26th in the New South Wales Open, she then made a run of four top-five finishes in the Investec South African Women’s Open, Lalla Meryem Cup, Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic and La Reserva de Sotogrande Invitational, where she finished tied for third, fourth, second and outright second respectively.
She felt that contending at the inaugural La Reserva de Sotogrande Invitational in Spain was the highlight.
“I think my best performance was in Sotogrande, where I was playing against Céline Herbin on the last day, and she’s a really experienced LPGA player. It was different on every hole, because we made a lot of birdies, but also bogeys and three-putted from 20 metres. The last round was a real rollercoaster but it felt like my best golf,” she said.
She recorded another second place finish in the Ladies European Thailand Championship and then posted her fourth and most recent runner-up finish in the Estrella Damm Mediterranean Ladies Open, before qualifying for the LPGA at Q-Series.
Henseleit returned to Europe and posted a tie for 32nd in the Andalucía Costa del Sol Open de España at the weekend.
The only thing missing from her season is a victory, but whatever happens this week, Henseleit can certainly say that she has had a great year.