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Blasberg had a few boyfriends in high school and a long-term steady throughout college, but the two broke up early in her pro career. For a while she dated a caddie, of whom McGrath says, "She was happier spending time with him than hitting balls alone at the range. She was a young woman who was discovering that there's more to life than golf." Blasberg also had an on-again-off-again relationship with a young man in the financial services industry whom her parents thought highly of. But he was based in Chicago and could only travel sporadically. One of Blasberg's ex-boyfriends agreed to discuss their relationship on the condition of anonymity. He wrote in an e-mail, "She was so giving, generous, strong-willed—all the things you look for in a girlfriend. But I couldn't keep up with her intensity. She could be very difficult to talk to, and it was hard to get her to open up. It was as if Erica put up a wall to anyone who had a chance to get to know the real her. It almost seemed like at times she hated the people she loved. I think it is pretty obvious that this stemmed from her complex relationship with her father. Is he a coach, is he a dad, is he part of her personal life, is he part of her professional life? I really think that growing up and having all these lines blurred made it hard for her to develop emotionally."
Anxiety about her personal and professional lives could account for Blasberg's insomnia, about which she constantly complained. The sleeping pills she took seemed to offer little relief. Cho regularly stayed in a guest bedroom at Blasberg's house. Whenever Cho checked in on her friend, Erica would be propped up in bed, reading, her Yorkshire terrier, Wynston, curled up nearby. Yet Mel recalls Erica once confiding that she had slept for three straight days. Jet lag could have been the cause, or too many sleeping pills. Or it could have been a symptom of depression. In May 2007 Erica withdrew from the Michelob Ultra Open. A couple of days later, on the phone with her father, she blurted out, "I've had it. I'm going to kill myself."
Mel and Debbie flew to the next tour stop, in northern New Jersey, to comfort and confront their daughter. "It was so out of the blue, we didn't know how to react," says Mel. Erica downplayed the comment and insisted that she was O.K. At her parents' insistence, she spoke with a couple of psychologists, but Mel describes those efforts as "halfhearted."
Mel says he initiated discussions with the LPGA and was told that if Erica needed a break from golf for mental-health reasons, she could take the rest of the season off and still retain her playing status. (Tour officials declined to comment for this article, citing the confidentiality of any conversations between players and support staff.) Erica played on. Less than a week after threatening to kill herself, she was back on the LPGA circuit closing out another disappointing season.
In 2008 Blasberg, at last, began to show some on-course progress. At the SBS Open, the first event of the new season, she went 69--68 to take a share of the lead into the final round. Her playing partner would be Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam. But Blasberg couldn't close the deal, shooting a 74 to fade to a tie for eighth, in what would be the best finish of her LPGA career. Mel monitored the telecast from home. "She didn't miss a shot, but she made nothing [on the greens]," he says.
Blasberg's persistently middling results confounded tour cognoscenti who were dazzled by the quality of her ball striking. Cho has an explanation: "When she was swinging the club, she put no pressure on herself—she simply let her talent take over. On the greens, that was where the stress was." Blasberg could be particularly shaky on short putts, an affliction that is more mental than physical.
Blasberg was on the verge of another breakthrough in the summer of 2008, at the Corning Classic, where she again took a share of the lead into the final round. This time she blew up, shooting a 79 that sent her skidding to 37th place. She then missed the cut at eight of the final 12 tournaments.
By last year Blasberg's career was in a free fall: At one point she missed the cut in 11 of 12 starts, and she was regularly acting up on the course. In May, near the beginning of the slump, Erica shot a respectable 71 during the first round of the Sybase Classic but, says Mel, "Never in my life had I seen a person carry on like that. She was slamming clubs, using profanity. She wasn't showing respect for the game or for herself." Near the end of the season he headed north to the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge in Danville, Calif. Again Mel was horrified by his daughter's comportment during an opening 76. "She was acting like a bitch—that's the only way I can describe it," he says. "She was practically spitting at me. On the 9th hole I walked in and went home." They wouldn't speak for the next six months.
At season's end Blasberg had earned only $26,408, but according to Callahan she was sound financially, thanks to continued endorsement income from Puma, Casio, Cleveland Golf and others. Still, the meager tour earnings forced Blasberg back to the LPGA's qualifying tournament to again play for her livelihood. She was suffering from bronchitis when she walked off the course in the middle of the third round. "She'd hit rock bottom," says Mel.
The golf course was not the only place where Blasberg seemed lost. She was amicable with everyone on the LPGA tour, but by all accounts her only real friend was Cho, who moved to Las Vegas in 2009 but spends a lot of time with a serious boyfriend. Says tour veteran Christina Kim, "Everyone on tour liked Erica—she was sweet, she was always smiling. But except for Irene, no one really knew her."