Published November 20, 2014
There were times during his round last Friday that Charlie Beljan would like to remember. But the day as whole, he doesn't remember much of it, and that's a good thing for him.
His troubles started on the driving range before the round, when he asked for the paramedics to check him out. Beljan was having trouble catching his breath and his heart rate was racing.
The paramedics looked him over and thought he was alright to go play his round. And what a round it turned out to be.
Beljan carded four birdies and two eagles in his first 11 holes to soar into the lead. But that's when his symptoms really took hold of his body.
The 28-year-old again asked for medical help, and again made the choice to keep playing. It seemed as though a panic attack had set in on Beljan, and there wasn't much the paramedics could do for him on the course.
The panic was multifaceted at that point. First off, Beljan was in a new spot -- leading a PGA Tour event. Second, and I'll reiterate this point, he was 8- under par through 11 holes. Was shooting 59 in the equation?
Third, and most importantly, Beljan started the week 139th on the money list and was facing the prospect of heading to the Web.com Tour in 2013.
Beljan, a mini-tour legend of sorts, was in the big leagues, and was going to do anything it took to remain there.
So he soldiered on. Sitting on the ground or his bag frequently, Beljan struggled to catch his breath. It got so bad towards the end of his round, that his playing partner and the two amateurs they were paired with allowed him to play out of turn so he could take more time to catch his breath, or do what he needed to do.
He told his caddie that he thought he was going to die at one point during the final holes. Beljan was still so out of sorts after the round that he questioned whether or not he made the cut. I guess he was relieved to hear he led by three.
Or maybe that set off another panic attack?
Beljan dug deep and managed to finish his round. As he walked to the scoring area, a few hundred yards from the 18th green, he was seen on television breaking down into tears.
It might not have seemed like it at the time, but they were tears of relief.
Then he spent 20-30 minutes in the scoring area being looked at by paramedics before being loaded into a waiting ambulance. Blood work, CAT scans and X Rays were to come at the hospital.
He told Golf Channel before his round Saturday that he only slept for an hour, and had his golf shoes on until around 4 a.m.
Beljan was released and made the choice to play golf on Saturday and Sunday. And why wouldn't he do that?
The doctors found nothing physically wrong with him, and he was leading the tournament. He said after his round Saturday that he started feeling ill during the third round, but a couple sandwiches and sports drinks fixed that.
He awoke Sunday morning with his stomach rumbling and head pounding. Those were the nerves of someone leading a golf tournament.
Beljan struggled early in the final round, but five birdies in a 6-hole stretch took care of that. A double-bogey cut his lead to three on the back nine, but he was able to cruise home.
Seemingly from his deathbed on Friday, to holding the trophy on Sunday. Indeed, it was a magical weekend at Disney for Beljan.
He won't have to panic over his tour card for two years now thanks to the win. The only panic he'll have the next few months is panicking about his new-born son.
And that is panic he'll be able to handle with no trouble.
ONE WIN STOPS TWO DROUGHTS
Cristie Kerr's come-from-behind win in Mexico ended a pair droughts. It was her first win since 2010.
The victory came at Lorena Ochoa's event. Ochoa and current world No. 1 Yani Tseng have something to do with the other streak.
Thanks in part her tie for fourth, Stacy Lewis locked up the Player of the Year award before the final event is even played.
Lewis became the first American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to win that award.
Ochoa and Tseng combined to win that award the last six years. Prior to them, Annika Sorenstam won the award eight times in 11 years. The other three went to Karrie Webb (1999-2000) and Laura Davies (1996).
The Player of the Year award has had two distinct stretches. From 1966 to 1994, only one non-American (Ayako Okamoto in 1987) won the award. Then from 1995 until last year, the award went to a Swede, an Englishwoman, an Australian, a Mexican and a Taiwanese.
Lewis, and her fellow American golfers, have a big challenge in keeping the Player of the Award in the States since Lewis is the only American in the top 10 in the rankings.
After years of fighting scoliosis, I know Lewis is up for the fight. As is Kerr, who is one of toughest competitors on tour.
* According to report in USA Today, Dottie Pepper is leaving NBC for the PGA of America at the end of the year. That is a big loss for NBC as she and Judy Rankin were the best female golf analysts out there. Pepper is moving to the PGA to help grow the game with juniors and women. She'll be tremendous at that, but golf fans will lose from her not being on TV any more.
* It's a shame this was the last year of the Fall Finish. Three of the four winners this year were first-time winners battling to keep their cards. Maybe the new system will be better, only time will tell.