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Golf: How Esther Henseleit stirs up the USA

Esther Henseleit, 23, is now also stirring things up in the USA. The professional golfer just finished third in Portland on the world’s best women’s tour, the LPGA. Your best placement in America. “I’m very happy with the way I played,” she said afterwards. “I mean, I played to the last hole to win.” In fact, she had led the tournament in Oregon State for two days, finally taking home $67,303 in prize money for third place.

The German has become very good friends with her adopted country: “I have an apartment in Arizona. I really like the USA for golf, the courses are extremely good, the weather is mostly good and I can deal with the rest.” .”

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Henseleit, who comes from Varel in the Friesland district on the Jadebusen in Lower Saxony and celebrated her greatest amateur successes at the Hamburg Falkenstein Golf Club, would have had the opportunity to go to the USA much earlier. As an amateur, she had a handicap of -7.2 in 2018. This has never happened before in Europe. She could easily have gotten a scholarship to an American college.

PORTLAND, OREGON - SEPTEMBER 16:Esther Henseleit of Germany hits her birdie putt on the sixth hole during round two of the AmazingCre Portland Classic at Columbia Edgewater Country Club on September 16, 2022 in Portland, Oregon. Steve Dykes/Getty Images/AFP

Esther Henseleit during the tournament in Portland

What: AFP

Almost all men who are represented at the top of the world such as superstar Tiger Woods (46), world number one Scottie Scheffler (26, both USA), John Rahm (27, Spain) and Viktor Hovland (25, Norway) were there a university in the United States. The German Matti Schmid, 24, who just qualified for the PGA Tour, also studied in Louisville, graduated in finance and raves about the college: “You have all-round support with trainers and physios. You take care of your studies and golf, the rest is taken care of for you.”

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But despite her great talent, Henseleit says, “I decided against it. I thought about it for a long time, but in the end I decided to go straight pro.” Her explanation: “I had the feeling that my golf was already at a good level to play with the pros. I was more afraid that if I went to the USA I would develop backwards as a golfer, since the focus there is very much on the academic. I wanted to focus 100 percent on golf.”

„Rookie of the Year“

So she started her professional career in January 2019 in Europe. In her very first year she won two tournaments on the European Tour, made a total of ten top 10 finishes and was named “Rookie of the Year”. “After a year I got my card for the USA right away,” she explains. “You have to get through qualifying school for that, which is definitely a tough couple of weeks, but it worked out in the end. Since then I’ve been traveling in the USA.”

On the LPGA Tour, which is every pro golfer’s dream. But she had to realize: “As a professional it’s something else, especially in the USA the performance density is so high that even with a good week you’re not even in the cut. That’s another level again.”

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Nelly (left) and Jessica Korda conquer the world of golf.

And if you don’t make it into the weekend at tournaments, there’s no money. For men, millions flow in the PGA tournaments. If they miss the cut, they usually go straight back to their families on a private plane. “You don’t see private jets that often on our tours now,” says Henseleit about the imbalance.

“A Little Company”

Because the prize money is much lower than for men. Therefore, the booked ticket usually remains, even if the cut was missed. “If there is another tournament on the agenda next week, training over the weekend is the order of the day. You can then continue training on site and then start the normal onward journey to the tournament, ”said the German. “Of course, when you go home, you think about rebooking. That always depends on the situation.”

Not only playing golf is important on the tour, but also the logistics: “You quickly learn to organize yourself well and to plan a trip. I have management, but I do most of it myself,” explains Henseleit. “You mainly travel alone, but you sometimes share a house with other players for a week. Of course it’s also nice to share the costs and then have a bit of company and see familiar faces in between.”

She is happy with her professional life. “The prize money keeps getting better. You can earn a living.” Henseleit also has a huge advantage over the competition: “I almost always have my own trainer with me. That’s a luxury.” Because her trainer and caddy is her English partner Reece Phillips.

PORTLAND, OREGON - SEPTEMBER 17: Esther Henseleit of Germany waits to hit her tee shot on the third hole during round three of the AmazingCre Portland Classic at Columbia Edgewater Country Club on September 17, 2022 in Portland, Oregon. Steve Dykes/Getty Images/AFP

Esther Henseleit (right) with her friend, trainer and caddy in personal union: Reece Phillips

What: AFP

At the beginning of the year she already won the Kenya Ladies Open, defended her title and is now a success in the USA. Then in October it’s off to South Korea for the BMW Ladies Championship. She was there last year, but because of Corona, the tournament took place without spectators. It’s different this time. “The Koreans love golf and have a lot of golf pop stars on the tour with us. There is an extreme fan culture there,” says Henseleit. “It’s extreme how good the funding is in Asia. A lot of young girls come from Korea, Japan and Thailand and play with us right away.”

Henseleit also knows the reason: “They have extremely good professional tours in their countries. South Korea alone has three different professional tours in their own country, which put a lot of money into it. There are completely new opportunities for women to make the step into the professional camp.”

Henseleit has made her own way – and with success. Now she’s just waiting for her first win on the LPGA Tour. No matter whether in the USA or Asia.

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