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Guest commentary: It’s only golf: The tragic story of Erica Blasberg

By Mary Armstrong/For the Sun-News

Posted: 03/03/2011 09:32:21 PM MST


On Sunday, May 9th, 2010, 25-year-old LPGA star Erica Blasberg was supposed to be in Alabama for a golf tournament, but she never left her home in Henderson, Nevada.If you recall this horrible event as I do, the discovery of her body by a so-called friend, Dr. Hess, seemed terribly suspicious and confusing. Hess had spent time with Erica only two days before at the “M” Casino in Las Vegas. After a four month investigation, Erica’s death was ruled a suicide and Hess was charged with tampering with evidence. He was convicted and sentenced to 24 hours of public service and one year of probation.

But, if you were like me, you knew that wasn’t the whole story.

This past Sunday, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” (OTL) program aired the most complete explanation of what transpired that day and in the months and years leading up to Erica’s death. OTL reporter Colleen Dominguez used an in-depth interview with Erica’s father, Mel Blasberg, to frame Erica’s story. Her rise to golf, celebrity and commercial success was meteoric yet fleeting, and while she remained an outgoing and photogenic asset to the LPGA, her game left her after early successes. Dominguez’ story reveals a deeply troubled young woman whose relationship with her father played a significant role in her death.

But her father’s controlling personality wasn’t the only factor. There was a failed relationship with a man twice her age – and married at that. It seemed on the surface that the break-up with John Broders triggered the suicide, but there was much more than that “eating Gilbert Grape.”

LPGA player Irene Cho had stayed with Erica a few months before her death and found a previous suicide note. She didn’t confront Erica or tell anyone about it because she was afraid she would violate Erica’s trust. Not long after, John Broders called Cho to ask that she go to Erica’s house because he said that Erica had texted him indicating she was popping pills like “skittles.” In a police interview, Cho said that at that point she decided she had had enough, saying “you know what, I don’t even want to deal with this anymore.” Predictably, Cho refused to be interviewed by Dominguez.

Rarely have I seen an interview that so-thoroughly implicated the interviewee. And yet earlier in the interview when speaking about Erica’s threat to kill herself in 2007 Mel Blasberg says that he realized then she was telling him she couldn’t take this life anymore. At another point in the interview, Mr. Blasberg says, “Did Erica want to continue what was going in her golf career? No. She had enough of that.” After that Erica received some psycho-therapy, but her tour and appearance schedule made her appointments spotty, leading to the eventual cancelation of treatment.

But, in my opinion, the most telling exchange between Mr. Blasberg and Dominguez was when he remarked that “Erica was force fed my personality.” To which Dominguez remarked, “Some people would say that not only was she force fed your personality, she was force fed golf.” Mr. Blasberg answered, “And I don’t regret that, I think golf was the best place for her.”

A controlling father in denial; friends that gave up; and a lifestyle that couldn’t accommodate necessary care. This is a sad story of a young woman that cried out for help. Sad because it reveals what some people will put ahead of another person’s happiness and in the end – a life.

The LPGA soap opera continues

A couple of years ago when the LPGA contracted with The Golf Channel to televise all their events I thought this was a breakthrough. Turns out to be much less. The inaugural LPGA event this year was being played in Thailand. Because of the tournament’s location a live telecast wasn’t advisable. Instead the LPGA tournament was aired in a delay broadcast opposite CBS’ live telecast of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.

Unfortunately this isn’t the only time such a thing has happened. If you follow the LPGA on TV at all you know that the vast majority of LPGA events are tape-delayed telecasts. Instead of televising live LPGA events, The Golf Channel has forged new contracts with CBS and NBC to cover nearly every hole on the PGA tour.

Now it has been reported that State Farm Insurance will no longer be an LPGA event sponsor after completing this year’s event in June. At $1.7 million, The State Farm Insurance Classic has the fourth-best purse of the U.S. events and is certainly in the top 10 overall. The news release indicated that Tournament Executive Director Kate Peters was immediately starting to look for a new sponsor. There was no mention of the LPGA’s role in that process. To date, five days after the report, I have yet to see an LPGA news release or posting of any information about it on their website.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog:


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