Happy Times As LPGA Tour Players Reflect On Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday means so many things. History. Food. Family. More food.

It’s a holiday Americans turn into a weekend, if not an entire week, to spend with loved ones and eat a ridiculous amount of creamed corn, creamed spinach, green bean casserole (also with cream) and usually some rendition of a festive fowl, fried, baked, broiled or barbecued. And the best part? All this is consumed, thankfully, without any judgement.

It is a uniquely American feast and holiday.

What makes it American, though, is the celebration of inclusiveness and being open to trying new things. As several LPGA Tour players shared, a traditional Thanksgiving for them today is similar to the ‘First Thanksgiving’ meal dating back to the 1600s, when Pilgrims joined hands with the Wampanoag tribe to enjoy a simple meal.

Whether it is inviting a friend over for dinner whose home is across the country or being open to trying a new dish that may not necessarily be ‘American Thanksgiving,’ all 550 active LPGA Tour members, 125 of whom are international, coupled with the LPGA staff and its fans know what truly makes the holiday great — celebrating the American traditions of kindness and gratitude. And in a year where family and friend gatherings may be limited due to the worldwide pandemic, being thankful is something truly special to all of us.

Ryann O'Toole

Born in Agoura Hills, Calif., Ryann O’Toole turned professional in 2009 and joined the LPGA in 2011. The 33-year-old now lives in Phoenix, Ariz., with her partner, Gina, and their five dogs.

“Thanksgiving is always great. Growing up, it was always you would have it at one grandparents’ (home) and then you’d go to the other side of the family and have it with those grandparents. Now as we got older, it was like you’re building your own traditions. Now grandparents are coming to our houses. It’s just fun.

“I love it because it’s typically not just one day. You get to go into the weekend and spend all of that time with the family. Sometimes we go on vacation and not do the typical Thanksgiving dinner. We’ll go away for the holiday. The last couple of times, my parents came to Arizona and we’d go to Sedona and ride side-by-sides and just try and do fun stuff as a family.

“My mom’s side is big Italian and my dad is the Irish-Dutch side. My mom’s side, her dad was big Italian and was always making sauce and always making food. Make so much so you could feed the world kind of.

“I am always like ‘I just want turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy and I’d be happy with that and maybe a salad. I just want mashed potatoes and gravy over everything. But what’s interesting is when you bring other people in, you get to see… Gina, my partner, has to have corn. She wants her canned corn roasted in butter and she must have that. Or the honey-baked ham. My family never did the ham, but now you have people bringing that in and the cranberry sauce and the bread. When you combine families, you bring in what they grew up eating plus what you grew up eating.

“This year, my sister just had a baby, so they’re coming out and we’re just going to do family get together in Arizona and be mellow. At the end of the day, step back from the food. It’s spending time with family and being able to get together.”

Jennifer Song

Originally from Ann Arbor, Mich., Jennifer Song also spent much of her childhood in the Republic of Korea, where she played soccer and excelled as one of the school’s striker. She continued to play while attending the University of Southern California, where she was on the Trojans women’s golf team. In 2009, Song made history with golf by becoming the fourth player to win both the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links and the U.S. Women’s Amateur. In 2011, she qualified for the LPGA Tour and has been a Member ever since.

“When it comes to family gatherings, I am usually pretty organized with my schedule. I make sure that I do all of my (golf) practice in the morning so that I definitely can make the time for family. I don’t get a chance to see all of my family that often so for me to get a chance to be with my family to share a simple meal and see their faces, having their company, and sharing love and hearing what is going on with their lives, that’s the thing that gives me the most happiness. I have a lot of warmth in my life.”

Though she’s lived in America for much of her adult life, Song still has strong ties to Korea, where most of her immediate family lives. South Koreans celebrate their own kind of Thanksgiving known as “Chu-seok.”

“My favorite Thanksgiving dish, if it’s American, is the turkey and the gravy. And then for Korean, I like galbi jim (a Korean beef stew). I’m just an eater. I’ll buy some desserts like pies or wine. I usually don’t have the luxury to make anything because I’m always traveling. I think my family always tries to understand and prep everything for me.

“Usually, my last tournament would be CME and I would go to New York to see my brother, my sister-in-law, and their family. We celebrate Thanksgiving and we enjoy that time. But I don’t think we’ll be having that this year.”

Lindsey Weaver

Originally from Bellefontaine, Ohio but now a Texas resident, 2018 LPGA Rookie Lindsey Weaver always loved the fall season. But Thanksgiving? Not as much. Christmas was and has always stole her heart. With a boyfriend and now fiancée whose family goes all out during Thanksgiving week, however, Weaver has come around to liking the holiday. Her favorite dish to look forward to? The cranberry sauce.

“I love the fall season. I have always been into the fall season, especially around Ohio, where my parents live, it’s beautiful. They live around a lot of rolling hills and a bunch of acreage. It’s so pretty.

“I was hoping to have a Fall wedding in Ohio (this year) but that didn’t work out. Next year, around Thanksgiving, (my fiancé and I are) getting married. Everything will be very different, but I think what I like most about Thanksgiving and Christmas is being around family and the food, obviously. And the drinks. It’s just fun to get dressed up and do all of that because we don’t really get to most of the time.

“When I was little growing up in Cleveland, we would always go over to my aunt’s and it would always be this big production. It was my dad’s half of the family and everyone would come over. I was never really that into Thanksgiving food so when we moved to Arizona when I was 11, we kind of stopped doing anything. We didn’t even have Turkey. I remember my mom would always make spaghetti for Thanksgiving. But when I was in college, one year, I was coming home from school and I said, ‘Why don’t we have a turkey this year?’ So ever since then, we started doing turkey more like normal people.

“When I was in high school and started dating Zach, he, his parents, and his family friends, and their kids and their best friends, they would always get together. Two families, and it was this whole production. You get there in the morning, you cook all day, and you eat at 3 p.m. and then it was always this big thing for them. Once we started dating, I would go over obviously, so we still do that now. We are going to Phoenix this year to be with his parents and their family friends.

“We do the turkey, the stuffing, and we even do ham. Our family friends are very social, so they invite friends who kind of trickle in throughout the day. We have 20 people. We do the green beans, there is always some type of casserole, and stuffing which I like a lot. I am more of a ham girl as opposed to turkey but I’m getting more into the turkey now with the gravy. We do the cranberry sauce and obviously pumpkin pie. Last year, we brought apple pie. Last year, I did this really intricate cheese board. Zach makes this really good guacamole. We sort of have a grab bag.”

Mina Harigae

As similar as the holiday can be for most American families, it can also be vastly different. That’s at least how it was for Mina Harigae, who has had her fair share of unique Thanksgiving Days thanks to her American and Japanese heritage.

“When I was little, I actually went to my uncle’s house, my mom’s brother. He has three kids and we’d do a real Thanksgiving dinner there. When I started to play golf, though, during junior golf, there would always be a tournament during Thanksgiving. It would be me and my mom usually and we’d just try and find anywhere that was open.

“It was crazy but really fun back then. I had a really fun group of friends and we’d just all do take out or go out to that one restaurant that was open and it’d be really fun. So, 10-15 junior golfers and their parents. I just remember us all being at a huge dinner table and having a good time.

“For my immediate family like my parents (who are Japanese immigrants to California), Thanksgiving is not a big deal at all. I think they viewed it more as a day off for them. They are chefs and they own and operate a Japanese restaurant, so they’re open pretty much every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“I like Thanksgiving because of all of the food and spending time with friends and family, but I really like Christmas because of the decorations, and everything is jolly and merry. It just seems like a happy time.

“Now, I live with my fiancé and his brother and it’s very traditional. None of us like turkey so we do the Honey Baked Ham. I love that company so that is what we’ve been doing the last couple of years.”