LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – One day after he spent some five hours wondering if he was going to die, Charlie Beljan returned to Disney on Saturday with only an hour of sleep in the hospital and concern that he might face another day of a racing heart and shortness of breath.
"I'm still not feeling that great," Beljan said on the putting green. "But shoot, the position I'm in, it's kind of hard not to show up."
Despite what he says was an anxiety attack that spun out of control, Beljan managed an 8-under 64 that gave him a three-shot lead in the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. Beljan can't afford to miss this opportunity. He is No. 139 on the PGA Tour money list, and only the top 125 get their full card for next year. Disney is the final official event of the year.
He said doctors ran a battery of tests and found nothing wrong.
"Yesterday, I honestly feared for me life," Beljan said.
Paramedics found his blood pressure to be alarmingly high at the turn Friday, and they followed him around the rest of the second round. He was wheeled out of the scoring room on a stretcher and taken to Celebration Hospital.
Beljan said he didn't take his golf shoes off until 4:30 a.m., and he slept for only one hour before being released.
"They released me saying that they thought I was good enough ... maybe not to go play golf, but at least to leave the hospital," Beljan said. "I'm making the decision to come out here and play. Who knows if we'll last two holes? Who knows if we'll last 18 holes? We're just going to take it one shot a time, which I did yesterday, and ended up pretty good."
The second round remains a blur. Beljan was hyperventilating so much that he felt numbness in his arms. His chest heaved as tried to draw a deep breath. At times he would stoop over, sit in the middle of the fairway waiting his turn to hit and kneel on the green before putting. His golf, which included two eagles, was so far removed from his thoughts that at one point, he thought he might miss the cut. Only later did he realize he had a three-shot lead.
Beljan said doctors didn't give him a clear answer on what happened.
"Maybe an anxiety or panic attack that spun out of control, having to fight it for six hours or so," he said. "But as far as blood work, the CAT scan, the lungs, the heart, everything was wonderful, which was a huge relief. But still, I'm going to have to go back out there and face the feelings today."
Beljan likely would need to finish around 10th place to make enough money to keep his card.
The first sign of trouble was three months ago, when he said he passed out on a plane returning home from the Reno-Tahoe Open. He said he hasn't felt the same since, although a number of tests have not indicated anything wrong with him physically.
Beljan said he's been so occupied with his health that he hasn't though about his three-shot lead, the first time the 28-year-old rookie has led after any round on the PGA Tour.
He said he felt better than he did Friday, "but still not great."
"A little nervous heading into today, just strictly for how I'm going to feel and what my body is going to do," Beljan said. "I don't even remember yesterday's round. I just remember fighting, one step at a time, one shot at a time, and counting down the holes until I was going to be done. I was scared. I've never been that scared.
"We'll see what we can do today, though," he said. "Hopefully, regardless of the score, just complete 18 holes. I look forward to having some fun today. And we'll see what happens. It's a dream come true."