Charlie Beljan returns to Disney, maintains lead
Hours after overnight hospital stay, PGA Tour rookie takes 2-shot advantage into final round
By Jeff Shain, ORLANDO SENTINEL
November 10, 2012, 6:03 p.m.
Physically, Charlie Beljan keeps checking out fine.
X-rays, CT scans, blood work, ultrasound – you name it, doctors have yet to find a test that shows anything abnormal with his body. It’s a point that Beljan spent Saturday constantly reminding himself.
“It’s that little space between the ears that I’ve got to work on,” he confessed.
If his golf game can stay immune another day, the PGA Tour rookie might just write himself a Disney ending.
Shrugging off two early bogeys that followed a sleepless night at the hospital, Beljan settled down to shoot a 1-under-par 71 that kept him in the lead at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.
“I don’t know how I am where I am right now,” said the Arizona pro, who less than 24 hours earlier left Walt Disney World in the back of an ambulance after suffering what he can only surmise was an anxiety attack.
Beljan, 28, remained at Florida Hospital Celebration Health overnight, getting his discharge shortly before 8 a.m. Playing only on about 90 minutes sleep, though, he was the one who held steady down the stretch while pursuers Brian Gay, Charlie Wi and Charles Howell all took bogeys.
By day’s end, Beljan held a two-shot advantage – just one tighter than when the round began, facing 18 more holes to secure his first PGA Tour victory.
“Wow, what an opportunity,” he said.
Beljan completed three rounds at 13-under 203, parring his final six holes on Disney’s Magnolia course. Before this week, his best standing after any round had been a tie for third heading to the final round of the Greenbrier Classic, where he finished third.
Gay (67) and Wi (70) also stood at 13-under before stumbling down the stretch. Gay bogeyed two of his final three holes; Wi finished his round with back-to-back bogeys. They were joined at 11-under by Josh Teater (67).
Howell (73) took an even bigger tumble. One shot off the pace as he came to the 17th tee, the Isleworth resident watched his drive splash into a pond left of the fairway. His next shot also ended up wet, leading to a triple bogey.
Howell then bogeyed No.18, falling five shots off the pace.
“The last three holes out here are really difficult,” Wi said. “You have to hold onto it.”
Beljan wasn’t sure what to expect when he returned to Disney. Sleepy and a little self-conscious about the way he left after an astounding 64 on the Palm course, he told reporters he wasn’t sure whether he’d make it through two holes or all 18.
“I was scared, I was nervous, and kind of embarrassed about the whole show that happened,” he said. “I didn’t know how I was going to take [Saturday], if those feelings were going to come back.”
What Beljan could tell himself is that doctors wouldn’t have released him if there was a physical problem. “I just had to get back into telling myself that I was OK,” he said.
Moving slower than usual, Beljan usually was the last man of his group to reach his ball. Following a par at No.8, a fan asked how he was feeling.
“Not great,” Beljan said, “but a helluva lot better than yesterday.”
A little later, Beljan said, he told caddie Rick Adcox that he was starting to feel some of the same symptoms. He ate a peanut butter sandwich, narrowed his focus – and birdie Nos. 10 and 11.
Now comes the final test – the pressure cooker of Sunday contention. Furthermore, his wife, 7-week-old son and mother-in-law were flying in from Phoenix in hopes of a celebration on the 18th green.
“That would be the ultimate feeling,” Beljan said. “A dream come true.”
Read Jeff Shain’s blog, The Downswing, at OrlandoSentinel.com/golfblog.