Irene Cho Plays Her Heart Out
By Stephanie Wei under General

Every time Irene Cho made a birdie on Thursday, she kissed the pink bracelet inscribed with “EB” — the initials of her best friend, Erica Blasberg, who passed away on Sunday — that PUMA sent to players. Dedicating her round to Erica’s honor, Irene fired a three-under 69 in the first round of the Bell Micro LPGA Classic.

Shane Bacon, who has spent some time with Irene in the past, spoke to her and wrote a moving piece:

“I made my last couple of birdies and I was like, “Finally, Erica!,” Cho said. “My group was awesome. (Azahara Munoz and Stephanie Louden) are two of the nicest people I’ve ever played with in my life.”

“I have no pressure. With golf, I’m taking it one day at a time, because there are a lot worse things in life. I’m thankful to be out here and thankful to be playing and thankful for all these people that care about me and Erica and that’s what I’m focusing on, not ‘Oh man, why did I hit that shot.’”

If there was ever an award for a first round performance, Cho deserves it. She could have taken this tournament off to go mourn her best friend and everyone in the world would have understood, but Irene wanted to play this week in honor of Erica.

Karen Crouse of the NY Times also filed a touching story:

Cho spoke, as all the player here have, about Blasberg’s death serving as a reminder that there is much more to life than golf. She talked about how she stayed calm when her caddie, Missy Pederson, miscalculated the yardage by 25 yards on her approach shot on the par-4 No. 5 and Cho’s shot barely cleared the water in front of the green. She made par and moved on.

“I don’t think I’m every going to be down on myself like I used to be,” she said.

The Golf Channel’s Randall Mell added this poignant detail:

Cho’s 3-under-par score resonated in a special way.

That’s what Blasberg shot at the Tres Marias Championship in the final round she posted as an LPGA player.

I know I crack jokes about reaching for a Kleenex, but I really did have to a few times this evening. Fantastic round, Irene and best of luck this week — I have a feeling the golf gods are looking over you.