The first paid story I wrote was my freshman year of college. I asked to get a writing gig at the Arizona Daily Wildcat, the student newspaper in Tucson, and the editor agreed, giving me club sports. I asked if I could write golf, and he said they don't normally give such a beat to a freshman. The next week I wrote a column about a female golfer blowing up the college circuit as a freshman herself. Her name was Erica Blasberg.
In the column I referred to her as a "kitten," the jokes started to fly between the golf team and myself, and a friendship was born. Over the next two years I did anything I could to rep the game of Erica, but she sure didn't need my help. Six wins in two seasons as a Wildcat, and it seemed stardom as a pro was inevitable.
The relationship Erica and I had always appeared to be writer and golfer. She put up the scores, I wrote it like a proud parent, routinely suggesting Erica be our weekly Player of the Week (sometimes they obliged). It evolved into more than that. By the time Erica had decided to turn pro, we were buddies. I rooted for her success. My parents rooted for her. All of my friends rooted for her. Even though I never told her this, I once emailed the Futures Tour website to let them know that they had messed up a stat in Erica's profile. She actually had one more win than they said. I'm sure she would have called me a dork if she knew I did that. That's Erica.
When I heard the news that Erica had passed away at the extremely unfair age of 25, I wasn't sure what to do. The call came from a friend of hers as I was pumping gas directly across the street from the University of Arizona. It was her old stomping grounds. It was her home.
When Erica left college to go pro, I routinely found myself checking any female golf statistics I could find. "How is she doing?" "What has she won?" "When will she be on the LPGA?"
It always seemed that golf loved Erica a little more than Erica loved golf. She was gifted like few in the world, and she wanted to do her best on the golf course, but it never seemed to be her greatest passion. When I got to caddie for Erica twice when she finally made it on the LPGA, you could see the fire when she stepped foot on the golf course, but she left it when she left the round. I was always jealous of that. In this game that haunts us all long after the last putt has fallen, she was so darn good at leaving it all behind.
I sure wish we had gotten to see her play a little longer.
Erica was a beautiful person, and that has nothing to do with her always talked-about looks. She loved to smile, laugh and poke fun at the friends around her. It was good natured, and making Erica laugh meant you accomplished something.
As everyone has encountered with the passing of a friend, there are moments you go back to, moments you regret. During the final round of the Masters, I was in Nevada around her stomping grounds, catching the end of the tournament. One of Erica's rules to golf viewing was "the tournament has to include Tiger (Woods) or I'm not watching," and lucky for me, he was in the field. We texted back and forth, and she offered me and my buddies a spot up at her house to catch the rest of the round. We ended up staying put. I sure wish now I would have flagged a cab.
I once asked Erica what she'd do if she stopped playing golf for a living. In typical Erica fashion, she pondered for a few moments, and then said with a big grin, "Maybe a weather girl?" It was her being silly, something she always did incredibly well. She also did her job; she got me chuckling.
I know there are hundreds of family and friends hurt by the loss of such a great girl, but I felt that it was my job to repay Erica in words. After one of my caddie experiments, I asked Erica to write something for my website. She was nearly as excited as I was. We posted it, and to this day it is still the most proud moment I've had monitoring a golf blog.
She was such a sweetheart.
I know for everyone that knew her, losing Erica means a few things. We will never get to see her pound that driver right down the middle of the fairway like she almost always did. We won't get to hear her laugh, and most of all, we will all be short a friend we cherished.
Thanks for all the laughs, kitten. You will be missed.