2:10 p.m. EST, November 12, 2012|
By Jeff Shain, ORLANDO SENTINEL
Charlie Beljan woke up Sunday with a pounding headache and stomach discomfort.
Here we go again.
“Here I am with the lead on the PGA Tour,” Beljan told himself, “and I can’t even wake up and lay in bed and feel well.”
One day earlier, you’ll recall, Beljan did his snoozing in a hospital bed after a panic attack left him fighting to take a normal breath. He ought to be able to rest easy now, though – he’s a PGA Tour winner.
In Disney parlance, call it Charlie Beljan’s Wild Ride.
“This is the greatest feeling ever,” the Arizona pro said after winning the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. Sunday’s 3-under-par 69 gave him a two-shot triumph over Robert Garrigus and Matt Every.
Hey, even Disney might not even have bought this script. Beljan’s pulmonary distress, which found him frequently sitting on his bag or even lying on the ground, came between shots of a 64 that gave him a three-shot lead after two rounds.
He returned Saturday on 90 minutes sleep and unsure whether he’d play two holes or 18, but scraped together a 71 that left him two in front. Then came Sunday’s discomfort.
“It must be a blessing in disguise,” Beljan said, “because all I think about is whether I’m going to play or not. I don’t think about the task at hand.”
An opening bogey wiped out his lead, but Beljan soon found his footing. Five birdies in a six-hole stretch opened a five-shot advantage, capped by a 30-footer at No.12 that he didn’t like at first but grew to enjoy.
“I literally thought I was going to be putting again – maybe even chipping,” he said of the speedy attempt. “Then I was like ‘This looks good… this looks good… this looks good’ – and then it dropped. I couldn’t believe it.”
The cushion allowed him to shrug off a double bogey at No. 13 and made a closing bogey inconsequential.
When the final putt dropped, Beljan cast his putter to the side and threw his arms into the air as wife Merisa – who flew in Saturday night from Phoenix – walked out to greet him with their 7-week-old son.
Garrigus was two shots back when his birdie at No. 14 followed Beljan’s double bogey, but could get no closer. The 2010 Disney champion wound up recording his fifth runner-up finish of this season.
“I needed to put a little bit more pressure on him,” Garrigus said after completing his 68. “If I birdie one or two of those [closing holes], it might have been a different story.”
Every also posted a 68, allowing the Daytona Beach native to match the best finish of his career. Windermere’s Brian Gay (70) was another stroke back at 13-under.
If Disney didn’t happen to be the season finale, Beljan likely would have withdrawn Friday. But at No. 139 on the money list and needing to crack the top 125 to keep full playing status, he needed a top-10 finish this week.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to get to finish my round on Friday,” he said. “[Saturday] I showed up just hoping to be able to finish 18 holes. Now here I am.”
Next on Beljan’s schedule: A Tuesday appointment back in Arizona to get to the bottom of his panic attacks, which have grown more frequent since fainting on an airplane while flying home from the Reno-Tahoe Open.
After this week, though, he’s learning to embrace being uncomfortable. Maybe the worst thing for him is to wake up feeling good.
“I’m going to stay in bed,” he quipped when the question came up. “I’m not coming out.”
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read Jeff Shain’s blog, The Downswing, at OrlandoSentinel.com/golfblog.