A Fathers Pain

By Randall MellAugust 21, 2010, 5:55 am
There is no escape for Mel Blasberg.

His passion has become his curse.

While he still loves golf, still loves teaching the game, he’s haunted by what he loved most about it.

He loved the connection it gave him with his daughter, Erica, a connection that lives on four months after her mysterious death.
Erica Blasberg
Erica Blasberg finished T-44 in her only start on the LPGA in 2010. (Getty Images)
Back in his director of instruction position at Eagle Glen Golf Club in Corona, Calif., Mel has been trying to put his life back together while wrestling with the mystery of what really happened to his daughter, the former LPGA professional who hit the tour with so much promise.

Mel went to work at Eagle Glen when Erica was 11. They were fixtures together on the range and course there.

“Erica was the centerpiece at Eagle Glen,” Mel Blasberg told GolfChannel.com. “It’s hard to be there and not be reminded of her on a constant basis.

“In a way, going back to work is good for me, but the reminders can bring back the worst emotions, very dark, where nothing seems important.

“When that curtain comes down, and it comes down every day, it’s devastating.”

There’s devastation in wondering what really happened to his daughter and whether he could have done anything to prevent her death.

With Mel getting news that the investigation is nearing an end, that the Henderson (Nev.) Police are expected to release their report next Wednesday, he’s bracing for the possibility he will never get answers to those questions.

That’s because Mel believes an important party in the investigation is withholding what he knows about the death.

Mel believes a Las Vegas family doctor named Thomas Hess can help with the mystery but that Hess is refusing to offer that help.

“The more and more I find out about the doctor, the more upset I get, but I cannot get into details about that,” Mel said.

Erica was discovered dead on May 9 in her Henderson home. She was 25. She was a two-time All-American at the University of Arizona before turning pro after her sophomore year and earning her way from the Futures Tour to the LPGA.

CBS News reported in June that sources close to the investigation said Hess spoke to Erica the night before she died and that he made the 911 call to police from Erica’s home the day she was discovered dead. ABC News reported a prescription written by Hess was found in Erica’s home. Two months ago, police raided Hess’ medical office and home, seizing video cameras, a cell phone, computers and white plastic trash bags similar to one found near Blasberg’s body.

Mel Blasberg said he is frustrated that after giving an initial interview with police, Hess has hired a lawyer and has gone silent.

“It’s time for Dr. Hess to tell us what happened,” Mel Blasberg said. “I believe without him telling us, I will always think that I could have done something more for Erica.”

Mel says none of this is about him and what he wants. As a father, who remains an advocate for his daughter, it’s about what Erica deserves.

“The police’s obligation is to Erica, not to me,” Mel said.

The cause of Erica’s death has yet to be released. Mel isn’t optimistic a clear picture of what led to her death will ever be known without Hess’ helping. He said he doesn’t know the exact nature of his daughter’s relationship with Hess, beyond the fact that they played golf together.

Henderson Police say there is no person of interest in the case.

“The lack of communication [with the police] hasn’t been easy for me,” Mel said. “I can only hope the investigation is thorough, accurate and professional. I pray for it, but if I have to base it on the communication I’ve received, I would not feel that way.”

Mel said waiting for next week’s report to be released isn’t the torment you might think.

“Not having Erica is a nightmare,” he said. “Everything else pales in comparison.”

Watching LPGA events has been difficult since his daughter’s death, Mel says. In fact, he can’t remember watching anything beyond a glimpse until he sat down to watch Paula Creamer win the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont last month.

“It is almost like women’s golf has been ripped away from me,” Mel said. “It had been part of my life for so long, and I was reluctant to watch. But there was something about watching Paula win, it gave me comfort.”

Mel said a big part of that is that Paul Creamer, Paula’s father, reached out to comfort Mel in his grief. They’re fellow Californians. Mel felt joy knowing the connection Paul has with Paula.

“It’s almost like I assimilated the feeling through Paula,” Mel said.

Mel was close to his daughter, but people who know him will tell you he was a tough teacher. Erica’s closest friends, like Ray Kim, her former caddie, will tell you that Mel’s toughness rubbed off on Erica. Still, the father/daughter could have their battles. Mel will tell you now that love won out. That’s what he holds onto because they had a small battle at the end of last year that spilled into this year.

“We actually didn’t speak for about four months,” Mel said. “I was her greatest fan, but I was probably her worst critic. I knew I had to do something about that when she didn’t call me on my birthday.”

After his April birthday passed with no call from Erica, Mel called her.

“I asked her why she didn’t call,” Mel said. “And we talked.”

And they reconnected shortly after, as father/daughter and as teacher/pupil. Kim said the reconnection was important to Erica and created a new spark in her game. After slumping in ’09, and then packing her bags in the middle of LPGA Q-School at the end of last year, Erica’s career seemed like it might be over. But after reconnecting with her father, Erica traveled to back to Corona to work with him. And Mel traveled to Las Vegas to be with his daughter. Erica played her way into the Tres Marias Championship in her last event before her death, tying for 44th.

“She was his life, his pride and his joy,” Kim said.

As devastating as the last four months have been, Mel said he can’t imagine how he would endure if he hadn’t reconnected with his daughter in such a meaningful way.

“There is no way to describe how important that was,” Mel said. “[Not reconnecting] would have been beyond tragic.”

Mel has terrific memories to live with, his own and the collection Erica’s friends and admirers have generously passed onto him.

As unpleasant as it might prove, Mel would like to hear the final chapter of memories, the chapter that tells him why his daughter’s life ended. But he isn’t optimistic he’s going to hear it when the police release their report as expected next week.
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An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

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