LPGA players join host family's Halloween party
Neen Fitzwalter bought enough candy at Costco to fill the bags of 2,800 Portland kids. Last year, 2,500 tricker-or-treaters came to the door of the Fitzwalter home, but with Neen retiring after 36 years as an HR consultant on Thursday, she’s throwing an even bigger street party to celebrate.
LPGA players Moira Dunn and Kris Tamulis flew in from Taiwan and Florida, respectively, to take part in the festivities. Both players have been staying at the Fitzwalter home during the Safeway Classic since they were rookies on tour (Dunn in ’95 and Tamulis in ’05).
“It’s so nice that people open up their homes for players,” said Tamulis. “I’ve never once had a bad experience staying in housing.”
For rookies on tour who are short on cash and friends, they rely heavily on families like the Fitzwalters to open up their homes for a week. They often get a house key, a bedroom and home-cooked meals. In many cases, the relationships grow so strong that players continue to stay on even when money is no longer tight.
Tamulis stays each year with families in Rochester, N.Y., Williamsburg, Va., and Rogers, Ark. Even though stops in cities like Springfield, Ill., and Corning, N.Y., have long gone, Tamulis still keeps in touch with her host families and stops by when she’s driving through.
While a freshman at Florida State, Tamulis first stayed with a host family in Pinehurst, N.C., during the North and South Amateur. She stayed with Bob and Nan Wood every summer in college and then again at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open when it was held at Pine Needles. She’ll be there once more next summer when the Women’s Open is held at Pinehurst No. 2.
“I’ve met their kids that live in other parts of the country,” she said. “Seen their grandkids grow up.”
Neen Fitzwalter was playing a round of golf at her club, Columbia Edgewater, when she heard about a fellow member hosting a caddie the week of the Safeway. She inquired about hosting a player, and several days later received a phone call about Moira.
Nineteen years later, Neen knows exactly what Moira likes (the short ribs) and dislikes (sour cream) because it’s recorded in her entertaining notebook, where she writes down menus she has served.
The players send in meal requests for the week, often opting for the chicken marsala, handmade chicken potpie and risoto.
Steve and Neen threw Moira a birthday party when she turned 40 and have even taken players to their cabin at Mount Hood after the tournament.
“Especially after all these years, they are truly like family,” Neen said.
For 40 years Neen has decorated her home past the point of normalcy for holidays big and small. No Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo goes by unnoticed.
“We are known as the ‘Holiday House,’ ” she said. “I think everyone would be very disappointed if the ‘Holiday House’ was not lit.”
There’s a full-sized mannequin at the front entrance whose name is Fifi. She is dressed according to the weather outside and the season. Halloween is Neen’s favorite holiday, and it takes a crew of eight to 10 people, three to four days to get everything up both inside and outside the house. Neen likes to get started the first weekend of October so that she can open her home each evening to folks passing by, offering drinks and appetizers along with a tour.
“We could have 10 to 50 people every night,” she said.
The Fitzwalters even got a permit to shut down the side street next to their home.
This year Neen has added a Voodoo Doughnut food truck that will be parked in front of her lawn. She’ll also have a Las Vegas Elvis impersonator (once named Elvis Impersonator of the Year) and three fully decorated vintage hearses from Coffin Cruisers.
Tiffany Joh, the LPGA’s music video queen, put together a simplified version of “Thriller” instructions for a flash mob dance that could include up to 100 of Neen’s friends. Performances will take place tonight at both 7 and 8 p.m.
“It’s just a full month-long event and it’s fun,” said Neen while driving into the office one last time, the top down on her convertible.
In retirement, she’ll no doubt have a few more tricks up her sleeve. Definitely more treats.