Blasbergs Father Wants More Answers

By Randall MellAugust 25, 2010, 2:46 am
Mel Blasberg read his daughter’s suicide note after it was recovered.

He read the message police said Dr. Thomas Hess took from Erica Blasberg’s side and hid in his car after finding her dead in her home.

“I understand why Hess would remove that note,” Mel Blasberg said.
Video: Mel Blasberg addresses the media after the coroner's report is made public
Blasberg is troubled by the nature of Erica’s relationship with the married doctor and believes that relationship is critical in the events that led to her death 15 weeks ago. He knows they were more than a doctor and patient, but he’s careful to couch his suspicions because police have more work to do after arresting Hess on charges of obstruction of justice in connection with the suicide.

Hess, a 43-year-old Las Vegas family doctor,  turned himself into authorities Tuesday afternoon and was booked at the Henderson (Nev.) Detention Center. Less than an hour later, he was released on bail.

Though police ruled out foul play in the findings released Tuesday, Hess was sought by police for removing the suicide note and prescription medications from the scene. Police said Hess “hid” them in his car.

After reading the suicide note, after listening to investigators detail their findings Tuesday in a 90-minute meeting at the Henderson Police Department, Blasberg knows more about his daughter’s state of mind, but he believes only Hess knows what really “triggered” the suicide almost four months ago.

“The note was a story that surrounded her death, but it wasn’t about her death,” Blasberg said by telephone shortly after leaving the meeting with police. “Where some questions were answered, the questions I need answering can only come from Hess.

“There is a reason why Erica’s state of mind got to a point – in her last 12, 13 or 14 hours – why it got to a point to where we are all talking about her. Prior to that time, she was fine. Everything has something to do with this guy Hess, which triggered something in her.”

Erica, 25, a promising golf professional when she first hit the LPGA, was found dead on May 9 at her home in Henderson.

According to Nevada’s Clark County coroner’s office, Blasberg’s suicide was caused by asphyxia and toxic levels of prescription medication. Police said she was found with a plastic bag over her head.

Video: 911 call made from Blasberg's home by Dr. Thomas Hess
The final 24 hours of Erica’s life haunts Mel Blasberg. Police say Hess made the 911 call from Erica’s home the day she died. Mel Blasberg says Hess also was with his daughter the night before she died. After hearing the police findings, Mel said he has reason to believe Hess saw his daughter in a troubled state that as a doctor should have alarmed him that she needed help.

“All along, my opinion’s been that Erica didn’t have to die,” Blasberg said. “Now, with the police investigation, I feel more strongly than I ever did that Erica did not have to die.

“This Dr. Hess was with her on Saturday night [the night before she died]. I can’t go in detail. I can, but I will let the police do that when they arrest him. But, just a normal, reasonable person would have done a whole lot more seeing Erica in this frame of mind. Seeing her in what appeared to be, clearly, some weird state, he really didn’t react. Where he might not, under the law, be considered a person who killed her, he is partly responsible why she is not alive.”

Blasberg is also troubled that after giving an initial statement to police, Hess retained an attorney and stopped cooperating with police. Blasberg said he plans to pursue the truth in a civil suit against Hess.

Asked if he believed his daughter and Hess were romantically involved, Blasberg paused.

“There is some specific, visual evidence that shows their relationship to be affectionate, which leads me to believe it was an affair, or something that was intimate,” he said. “I don’t have all the information. Based on what I was told, I think that’s the only conclusion I can draw.”

Erica Blasberg’s golf career mirrored her life in the end, a tale of highs and lows.  

Blasberg grew up in Corona, Calif., as a three-time American Junior Golf Association All-American. She was good enough to play on the boys’ team at Corona High School. Mel was a professional instructor and the only swing coach she ever knew. She went on to become a two-time All-American at the University of Arizona who was good enough to turn pro after her sophomore year.

She quickly won a Futures Tour event and advanced through LPGA Qualifying School.

Erica was going to be a star. That was the feeling back home, but it never happened.

In five LPGA seasons, Blasberg’s best finish was a tie for eighth at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay in Hawaii. Her friends saw her struggle emotionally with the game. She quit halfway through the LPGA’s Qualifying School last winter and confided to friends that she wasn’t sure what she would do if she gave up golf. Those friends, though, saw a rejuvenated spirit in Blasberg before the start of this season. Her former caddie, Ray Kim, said a renewal of commitment with her father as coach sparked a comeback in her game. Blasberg Monday qualified for the Tres Marias Championship in April, made the cut and tied for 44th.

Poised to Monday qualify for the Bell Micro Championship in early May, Erica’s bags were all packed for the trip when she was found dead. She had even arranged to borrow her dear friend Irene Cho’s caddie.

Mel Blasberg said his daughter’s eagerness to get to the Bell Micro factors into the mystery of what happened that last night.

“Emotionally, I was prepared for today,” Mel said of his 90-minute meeting with Henderson police. “I was prepared to ask my questions, but, in between everything, it was impossible. I kept up a good front, but when the press wanted to talk to me after, it hit like a ton of bricks: Erica’s dead.”

Nearly four months after his daughter’s death, Blasberg remains intensely interested in his daughter’s life and what happened in the last hours of that life.
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Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:44 pm

There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.

Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.

"I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."

Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.

"That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."

When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.

"I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."

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Spieth drops out of top 10 for first time since 2014

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:08 pm

As Brooks Koepka ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a former No. 1 continued a notable decline.

Jordan Spieth didn't play last week's CJ Cup, where Koepka won by four shots. But Jason Day did, and his T-5 finish in South Korea moved him up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in the latest rankings. Spieth dropped from 10th to 11th, marking the first time that he has been outside the top 10 in the world rankings since November 2014.

Since that time, he has won 12 times around the world, including three majors, while spending 26 weeks as world No. 1. But he hasn't won a tournament since The Open last July, and this year he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. Spieth is expected to make his season debut next week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

Koepka and Day were the only movers among the top 10 on a week that saw many top players remain in place. Sergio Garcia's rain-delayed win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters moved him up four spots to No. 27, while Gary Woodland went from 38th to 30th after finishing second behind Koepka on Jeju Island.

Koepka will tee off as world No. 1 for the first time this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where new No. 2 Dustin Johnson will look to regain the top spot. Justin Rose is now third in the world, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Day rounding out the top 10.

With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods remained 13th in the world for the fifth straight week.

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Pavin's season nearly ends after slow-play penalty

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 1:50 pm

Corey Pavin's season on the PGA Tour Champions nearly came to an end because of a slow-play penalty.

Penalties for pace are often discussed or threatened, but rarely doled out on either the PGA Tour or the over-50 circuit. But that changed Sunday during the final round of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, where Pavin was told by a rules official after completing his round that he would receive a 1-stroke penalty for slow play.

The penalty was on the surface rather harmless, turning an even-par 72 into a 1-over 73 and dropping Pavin into a tie for 15th. But this was the first event of a three-tournament postseason for PGA Tour Champions players, and only the top 54 in points advanced to this week's Invesco QQQ Championship.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

Pavin, who has two top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season, barely held on at 53rd place after the penalty was enforced.

Slow-play discussions came up earlier this season surrounding Bernhard Langer at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, but Golf Channel analyst Lanny Wadkins expressed his surprise on the telecast that it was Pavin who got a shot added to his score.

"Of all the things to happen with all the times I have played - I can't even count the number of rounds - I never thought Corey Pavin was a slow player," Wadkins said. "All the guys we know are slow players have never been penalized out here. Where has this been for the last 15 years?"

The subject of the penalty also raised an eyebrow from Stephen Ames, who finished alongside Pavin in 15th place while Langer finished second behind Woody Austin:

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Azinger 'lobbied' to captain Ryder Cup team a second time

By Rex HoggardOctober 22, 2018, 1:47 pm

In 2008, Paul Azinger became the first U.S. Ryder Cup captain in nearly a decade to lead a team to victory, doing so at Valhalla with his innovative “pod” system and a player-driven approach to leadership.

In the wake of that victory there were many, including the vast majority of his players, who said Azinger deserved a second chance to captain, but at the time the 12-time PGA Tour winner appeared to be undecided and the PGA of America named Corey Pavin the 2010 captain.

On Monday, Azinger was named NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst starting next year and among many revelations during an extended interview on “Morning Drive” he explained how much he wanted a second chance to captain.

“I wanted to do it again, I lobbied to do it again after we won in ’08, but I think I waited a little too long and they had already made a decision,” Azinger said. “The excuse I got was that there are more captains than there are Ryder Cups and I thought that was fair, but then they asked [Tom] Watson to do it again shortly afterward and I was like, ‘What, huh?’”

Watson was named captain of the 2014 U.S. team, which lost by five points and led to the creation of the Ryder Cup task force, which adopted many of Azinger’s ideas including his use of four-player pods.

It’s even more curious that Azinger was never given a second chance considering that Davis Love III was also named a captain twice, first in 2012 and again in ’16.

“I didn’t do it again, I didn’t carry the flag to Europe in 2010, which is fine, and now I’m never going to get to do it again,” he said.

As for who may be named the next U.S. captain after another loss to the Europeans last month in France Azinger could only speculate. “Looks like Wisconsin [site of the 2020 matches at Whistling Straits] and Steve Stricker are going to be a perfect match,” he said.