PHOENIX – Brooke Henderson’s legion of followers shouted her name at just about every turn Saturday at the JTBC Founders Cup.
After the round, Henderson’s playing partner turned to her with a playful question.
“Brooke, do you think all your fans even know what my name is?” Megan Khang cracked.
Henderson laughed, because Henderson knows who Khang is. These gifted 18-year-olds knew each other before playing themselves into contention together at the Founders Cup. Khang was paired with Henderson in Canada in Henderson’s final junior event in 2014, before Henderson turned pro.
“We played a lot of events together as juniors,” Khang said.
Henderson is already a star. She won the Cambia Portland Classic as a 17-year-old last year to earn LPGA membership. She broke into the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings last week, moving to No. 10. She is drawing large galleries this year, with lots of fellow Canadians coming out to support her. Some of them came Saturday waving small Canadian flags.
“I think the whole country was here,” Henderson joked. “There was so much support out there, right from the get go.”
Brittany Henderson, Brooke’s caddie and sister, said the growing following is inspiring.
“There are American fans, too,” Henderson said. “Everywhere we go, we feel so welcome, so at home.”
Henderson put up a 7-under-par 65 in the third round to move four shots off the lead. Khang, a rookie from Rockland, Mass., put on a good show for all those fans, too. Khang shot a 66 to pull within five of the lead.
It’s been an interesting week for Khang and her father/caddie, Lee. She has been playing in front of big crowds right from the start. In the first two rounds, she was paired with Michelle Wie and Cheyenne Woods, niece to Tiger Woods who was a hometown favorite here from Phoenix. Khang stole the show in that grouping. Khang was the only one who made the cut, shooting 68 and 69.
“It’s different going from hardly anyone watching you to playing in front of big crowds,” Khang said. “I have definitely learned you can’t watch what everyone else is doing, and that if you play your own game you’ll be fine.”