Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

pga tour Beljan feels he might die again -- of joy

Rookie rebounds from panic attack, hospital stay to win event, keep card

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Charlie Beljan felt as if his heart was about to burst out of his chest Sunday at Disney, and he couldn't have felt better.

This wasn't another panic attack gone wild, like the one that sent him to the hospital in an ambulance after the second round and made him feel like he was going to die. This was the prospect of winning on the PGA Tour for the first time.

The roller coasters at the Magic Kingdom are nothing like what Beljan went through in the final PGA Tour event of the year.

Two days after he was wheeled out of the scoring room on a stretcher, the 28-year-old rookie was celebrating on the 18th green as the band played Zippity-Do-Dah. He arrived at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic with his job in jeopardy, and left with a two-year exemption that will send him to Maui at the start of the year, the PGA Championship at Oak Hill and lots of other tournaments where winners belong.

"Every day I drove underneath that Disney sign coming in here that said, 'Where dreams come true,' and that's just what happened this week," Beljan said after closing with a 3-under 69 for a two-shot win. "And I'm so grateful and so honoured."

By the sound of it, he was lucky to be playing.

Beljan could hardly breathe and his blood pressure spiked during his second round, when paramedics followed him around the back nine. After sleeping for only an hour or so in the hospital after a variety of tests, he played Saturday fearful of having another panic attack. And when he awoke Sunday morning, his head was throbbing and his stomach felt queasy.

Once he got on the golf course, the rest was easy.

Beljan ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch around the turn, twice knocking in putts from around 30 feet, and built a five-shot lead. A double bogey made it close, but only until he made birdie on the next hole. He tapped in one last putt, tossed his putter to the side of the green, pumped his fist in celebration and hoisted his 7-week-old son.

Robert Garrigus and Matt Every each closed with a 68 and tied for second.

"It was incredible," Beljan said. "I was happy that I was a PGA Tour champion. I was happy that my wife and my baby were here. It still isn't real."

Just three weeks ago, he feared he would have to go to the second stage of Q-school, no guarantee that he would have a tour card for next year. Suddenly, he can make plans for the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, for events hosted by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

"I don't know what other perks come with winning, but I know every single one of them is pretty darn good," he said.

Beljan finished on 16-under 272 and became the fourth rookie to win on tour this year.

Tim Herron was the other big winner Sunday, closing with a 69 to tie for ninth. That gave him enough money to move from No. 138 to No. 124 on the money list, giving him his full card for the 2013 season.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 12, 2012 D6

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