Once one of golf’s brightest young stars, Erica Blasberg was in a slump. The beautiful brunette college standout had turned pro in 2004 but never finished higher than eighth place and this season competed in only one LPGA tournament, finishing far back in the pack.
“She played golf her whole life,” friend Jay Beckman tells PEOPLE. “I think she just got a little burned out.”
Still, the 25-year-old Blasberg worked hard to get her game back, practicing nearly daily at the Southern Highlands Golf Club in Las Vegas, flashing her bright smile and turning heads. She had made travel plans for another tournament.
And so friends and colleagues reacted with shock when she was found dead Sunday in her Henderson, Nev., home by a friend – her bags packed and heading to Alabama to try and qualify for a tournament.
Was It Suicide?
While numerous reports have speculated to the cause of death, police are not commenting other than to say that they are a conducted a death investigation, a standard procedure.
“At first glance it looks like she might have taken her own life, but at second glance, something is very, very strange about it,” Erica’s father, Mel Blasberg, tells The Press-Enterprise of Riverside. “We’re waiting for the police to make an investigation, it’s a pending investigation. Either way, I lost her and it’s impossible to deal with.”
The Clark County Coroner is conducting toxicology tests to try and determine a cause, but results won’t be back for about six to eight weeks, a representative said.
“I don’t know of any problems that she had and I think she would have told me,” Beckman says. “I talked to her almost every day. We talked about it all, any problems she had or any joys that she had.”
A former resident of Corona, Calif., Blasberg was a junior golf star having been honored as a two-time All-American from 2003-04, the 2003 NCAA Freshman of the Year and 2003 Pac-10 Player of the Year while at University of Arizona.
Blasberg impressed her teammates with her quirky charm – and quickly earned the nickname Skip.
“The very first day of workouts she rolls in there at 6 a.m. and she had her bow in her hair and her makeup on,” says her college coach Greg Allen. “Skip was all done up. The strength coach had everyone skip to warm up and let loose and she didn’t know how to skip. We knew right away what her nickname would be.”
At a tournament in Tucscon her freshman year, she lost track of time and woke up in the middle of the night, thinking it was time to hit the course. “She showed at 2 a.m. thinking it was 6 am.,” says Allen. “She thought it was hysterical. She couldn’t wait to tell everyone what she did. Then she went out and shot 68 and won a golf tournament. Those kinds of things happened to Skip.”
Fell Short of Potential
She turned professional in June of 2004 and won once on the Duramed FUTURES Tour before qualifying for the LPGA Tour in 2005. Her best year was 2008 when she tied for eighth at the SBS Open in Hawaii and over $113,000 in winnings. This season, though, Blasberg had played in only the Tres Marias Championship, where she tied for 44th.
“I don’t know that she ever enjoyed the success that everyone close to her thought that she could have once she turned pro,” says Allen.
Still, says her pal Beckman, “She was smart, pretty and can play golf. She was a great commodity. Guys went nuts for her. They’d see her on the range and ask who she was. There’s this cute girl out there crushing the ball. She would get noticed.”
She was there on Friday playing a round in Las Vegas. “She was making fun of my shirt. She seemed fine. She seemed normal. She seemed like Erica,” Beckman says. “She was a great girl and had pretty limitless potential. She would talk about getting mad on the golf course because that’s when she was her best.”
• Additional reporting by STEVE HELLING