The inaugural Magical Kenya Ladies Open was successfully held at the Vipingo Ridge. It was the season finale on the lucrative Ladies European Tour (LET). We spoke to Alastair Cavenagh, the chairman of the Local Organizing Committee.
Q: How would you describe the Ladies European Tour event ?
The LET tournament really was a shining example of what Vipingo Ridge and Kenya as a whole are capable of when it comes to hosting international events. It was a fantastic opportunity not only to promote women’s golf but to showcase to the world what this country has to offer. The barometer of success for us was everyone going away having thoroughly enjoyed themselves and we have had nothing but incredibly positive feedback from everyone -players, spectators and VIP guests- about the whole week. We’ve been delighted with the response, especially as it was the inaugural year. The professionalism of the event was astounding and I have to hand it to our team on the ground, our partners U.COM and all of the sponsors that played their part in achieving truly world-class standards in Vipingo.
Q: What were the high moments for you?
The golf that was played out on the Baobab Course was fantastic. The atmosphere was electric when Esther Henseleit dethroned Julia Engstrom on the final day -it was a seriously impressive performance from the young German. There were also memorable shots from Cheyenne Woods and Naomi Jimenez among others, and our course record got broken twice. Personally, I was incredibly proud to have Her Excellency the First Lady officiate the Prize-giving Ceremony -her words of encouragement to young Kenyan golfers were particularly poignant and it is wonderful to have had her support.
Q: Did the event go smoothly/perfectly as planned?
As with anything, there were small bumps along the way especially because we put together the event in record time. However, at the end of the day, all the pieces fell into place and I cannot thank everyone who was involved enough!
Q: Any anxious moments for you and the local organizing committee?
We got the go-ahead and announced the event on the 2nd October so we only had about nine weeks to organize the whole thing. That, in itself, was an incredible achievement but yes, it did cause a lot of initial anxiety.
Q: Is this the biggest event that has ever been held at Vipingo? Has it changed the fortunes of Vipingo Ridge in any way?
It is certainly the biggest event so far and we are excited for it to grow year on year. We’ve already got the dates confirmed for 2020 so it’s all systems go for this year. The tournament has really put Vipingo Ridge and Kenya in general, on the map and we truly hope it will encourage golfing tourists to visit this unique destination. This year, we are doing a big drive to attract people from across Europe to come and play the spectacular Baobab Course and we now have a great advantage as most golfers will have heard of us.
Q: Were you satisfied with the spectator numbers?
It was quiet for the first couple of days but over the weekend, the numbers picked up and there was a lovely atmosphere on the final day. Obviously, we are hoping for bigger crowds each year and we will have more time to market the event to people across the nation.
Q: How much planning went in to putting this event together?
We had to organise everything at an incredible pace and the level of sophistication from our teams was fantastic. I look forward to seeing what we can achieve this year with a lot more time! Like most sporting events, there is a phenomenal amount that you don’t realise is going on behind the scenes from hospitality to logistics. There was a huge amount of preparation required just for the TV production crew to broadcast live -we had specialists on site for weeks. The result was excellent -what was seen on millions of TVs across the world looked stunning!
Q: Plans for 2020?
It has been confirmed that the LET tournament will be moved to October in 2020 and so we’ve got over 9 months to get things ready for an even bigger playing field. I really feel that any set-backs we had last year were due to our time constraints so it should be plain (or at least easier!) sailing this time around. There were a few key lessons learned during 2019’s inaugural event and we’ve now got an impressive marker in the sand to compare all future events against. We are hoping to see more Kenyan women play the tournament this year so a special note to those in training -we are behind you 100% and will cheer you on from the sidelines.