Kenya Ladies Open: Giraffes interrupt play before Singapore teenager Shannon Tan makes history

Jack Bantock, CNN | 2/12/2024, 10:51 a.m.
It was quite literally neck and neck at the Magical Kenya Ladies Open before teenager Shannon Tan wrote her name ...
an celebrates a historic triumph on her LET debut. Mandatory Credit: Tristan Jones/LET

It was quite literally neck and neck at the Magical Kenya Ladies Open before teenager Shannon Tan wrote her name into the history books.

Two giraffes took a leisurely stroll onto the 18th fairway during the final round at Vipingo Ridge’s Baobab course, which is nestled within a wildlife sanctuary where a range of African species – from monkeys to zebra and antelope – are free to roam.

Many of the wildlife are rescue animals, including Sunday’s two wandering giraffes. One of the duo is named Valentine after being saved from drought as a baby orphan in Samburu, northern Kenya, on Valentine’s Day in 2021, according to Vipingo Ridge’s website.

After the pair sauntered back into the trees, the focus returned to the 19-year-old charging towards the giraffe-shaped winners trophy on her first Ladies European Tour (LET) start as a professional.

Having begun the day sharing the lead with Alessandra Fanali, Tan rolled in five birdies to pull away from the Italian and finish victorious at 12-under overall, making her the first Singaporean to ever win on the LET.

The Texas Tech University alumni turned professional in January after becoming the first golfer from her country to earn a full LET card the previous month and having won the Singapore Ladies Masters – an event on the China LPGA Tour – as an amateur in July.

“It was a tough decision to begin with [to turn pro] but I’m glad I made it now,” Tan, ranked 434th in the world ahead of the tournament, told reporters at the season-opening event Sunday.

“It’s a good thing because juniors back home know it’s possible and that anything is possible, and it can push them a little bit and inspire them.

“I will go into every event with the same mindset and target and just trying to do my best and just control the controllables. I can’t control what other people do, but just what I can do. I will just try to stick to my gameplan throughout the season.”

The site of Africa’s only PGA-accredited course, the 2,500 acre Vipingo Ridge site is home to a PGA academy built with the dream of developing a future Kenyan champion.

Staff also hope that its resident animals can – following the implementation of a breeding program – eventually be reintroduced into the wild or other sanctuaries and conservation areas, Vipingo Ridge chairman Alastair Cavenaugh told CNN in 2022.

“With the way the population is expanding, human-wildlife conflict is only going to go one way and get worse,” Cavenaugh said.

“So I think there’s a lot of opportunity and scope for the government to partner developers and land owners who have land that they can commit to sanctuaries and conservation areas to create space for wildlife.”