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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Davies headlines field at Senior LPGA at French Lick

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 14, 2018, 10:40 pm

Laura Davies will be looking to win her second senior major championship this year when she tees it up in Monday’s start of the Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick Resort in Indiana.

Davies, who won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open in July, will join a field that includes fellow World Golf Hall of Famer Jan Stephenson, who was announced last week with Peggy Kirk Bell as the Hall’s newest members. Hall of Famers Juli Inkster and Hollis Stacy are also in the 54-hole event.

Trish Johnson is back to defend her title after winning the inaugural Senior LPGA Championship a year ago. Brandi Burton, Jane Geddes, Helen Alfredsson and Liselotte Neumann are also in the field of 81 players who will compete for a $600,000 purse, with $90,000 going to the winner.

Golf Channel will televise all three rounds live from 4-6 p.m. ET on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Langer (65) wins regular-season finale by six

By Associated PressOctober 14, 2018, 10:07 pm

CARY, N.C. – Bernhard Langer ran away with the SAS Championship on Sunday to take the points lead into the PGA Tour Champions' Charles Schwab Cup playoffs

Langer shot a bogey-free 7-under 65 for a six-stroke victory in the regular-season finale.

''I just played very solid all day long,'' Langer said. ''Putted well, hit the ball where I was looking and did everything exceptionally well.''

The 61-year-old German star has 38 victories on the 50-and-over tour, also winning this year near Houston. He has a record four victories after turning 60.

''I don't have anything to prove, but I still have golf,'' Langer said. ''I still want to improve my own game. I still want to play to the best Bernhard Langer can play. I don't think I need to prove anything, but I love competing, I love winning or being in the hunt. As long as I can do that, I think you're going to see me out here.''

Langer finished with a tournament-record 22-under 194 total at Prestonwood Country Club, the tree-lined layout softened by heavy rain Thursday from Hurricane Michael. He opened with a 62 on Friday to match Gene Sauers and Tom Lehman for the lead, and had a 67 on Saturday to remain atop the leaderboard with Sauers.

Full-field scores from the SAS Championship

''The 10 under was amazing,'' Langer said. ''I couldn't believe there were two other guys who shot 10 under.''

The four-time Charles Schwab Cup winner also won at Prestonwood in 2012.

''It's always fun to go back to where you've won before because you feel like you know how to play the course and you're somewhat comfortable and that's certainly the case here,'' Langer said. ''I've been probably 50, 70 times now around this golf course and I know how to play every hole.''

Scott Parel was second, closing with a double bogey for a 65.

''Bernhard is just in his own world this week,'' Parel said.

Jerry Kelly had a 68 to finish third at 15 under, and Lehman followed at 13 under after a 71.

Sauers shot a 75 to tie for fifth with Miguel Angel Jimenez (68) at 12 under.

The top 72 players in the Schwab Cup standings qualified for the playoffs, the three-event series that begins next week with the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in Richmond, Va. Dan Forsman tied for 56th to jump from 74th to 72nd, edging John Huston for the final spot by $932. Huston tied for 46th.

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Pepperell captures British Masters, eyes Augusta

By Associated PressOctober 14, 2018, 5:29 pm

WALTON HEATH, England -- Eddie Pepperell won his second European Tour title with a two-shot victory at the British Masters on Sunday and likely secured the even bigger prize of a place in next year's Masters at Augusta National.

The Englishman shot an even-par 72 and held off his playing partner, Sweden's Alexander Bjork (71), as the pair went to the 72nd hole at a wet and windy Walton Heath with Pepperell just a stroke in front.

Pepperell finished on 9-under 279.

Herbert Lucas (69) and Jordan Smith (73) were tied for third, another two shots behind Bjork.

English pair Sam Horsfield (69) and Tom Lewis (70) along with American Julian Suri (74) tied for fifth, one shot in front of tournament host Justin Rose (70).

The victory takes Pepperell into the world's top 35 and almost certainly secures a first appearance at Augusta in 2019. The top 50 at the end of the year are guaranteed a place in the first major of the year in April.

Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood (72) finished 2 under in a seven-way tie for ninth.

Full-field scores from the British Masters

A top-two finish on Sunday would have seen Rose reach the top of the world rankings for the second time this season, the 38-year-old having spent two weeks as No. 1 in September

Pepperell was ranked outside the top 500 as recently as May last year, but won the Qatar Masters in February and followed a runner-up finish in the Scottish Open with a tie for sixth in the British Open seven days later, carding a closing 67 at Carnoustie despite saying he had a hangover.

His three-shot overnight lead was down to a single stroke on Sunday when Bjork covered the front nine in 34 and Pepperell three-putted the ninth, the same hole where he enjoyed a spectacular hole-in-one on Thursday.

However, the 27-year-old Pepperell promptly holed his second shot to the 10th from 122 yards for an eagle to move three clear and a par save from off the green on the 14th looked to have sealed the win.

There was still time for some late drama, though, as Pepperell dropped shots on Nos. 15 and 16 to see his lead cut to a single shot, but Bjork bogeyed the 18th after driving into the heather and Pepperell saved par from a greenside bunker.

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Disappointed Sharma fades to T-10 at CIMB

By Will GrayOctober 14, 2018, 1:46 pm

For the second time this year, India's Shubankhar Sharma watched an opportunity for a breakthrough win turn into a learning experience.

Sharma burst onto the scene in March, taking a two-shot lead into the final round of the WGC-Mexico Championship only to fade to a tie for ninth. It was a similar story Sunday at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, where Sharma started the final round in a three-way tie for the lead but struggled to an even-par 72 that dropped him into a tie for 10th.

"Disappointing, not really happy with the way I finished," Sharma told reporters.

Full-field scores from CIMB Classic

CIMB Classic: Articles, photos and videos

The 22-year-old was 1 over for his first six holes, but he battled back with four straight birdies on Nos. 7-10 to get within three shots of eventual winner Marc Leishman. But his tee shot at the par-3 11th found the water, leading to the first of three straight bogeys that ended any hopes of victory.

"That was probably one of the worst swings of the day," Sharma said. "That 11th hole I think killed the momentum for me. A par there would have gone a long way, and I probably could have made more birdies after that."

Sharma remained optimistic this spring following his final-round fade in Mexico, and he retained a positive mindset despite a rough afternoon as he eyes upcoming starts at both the CJ Cup in South Korea and the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.

"Great experience. Very, very good to have two top-10s on the PGA Tour, so that's a good way of looking at it," he said. "Also, it pushes me to keep playing well. I feel like I have it in me to win out there on the PGA Tour, and I've given myself two opportunities. Game is in a decent place now."