Beljan's battle at Disney lends perspective to Tour finale
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Suddenly making the top 125 and keeping a PGA Tour card didn’t seem like a matter of life and death. This is just a golf tournament, jobs on the line or not. That perspective was rammed home at the sight of 36-hole leader Charlie Beljan, strapped onto a stretcher, being put on an ambulance outside the scoring area for a trip to nearby Celebration Hospital.
Photos: Children's Miracle Network Classic (Rd. 2)
View images from the second round of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, played Nov. 9 at Disney's Magnolia and Palm courses in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
While others were fighting for their livelihoods at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, Beljan clearly was in a more serious battle. He fought numbness in his arms and low blood pressure during that second round, his caddie Rick Adcox said. Several times he felt like he was going to faint. And at times he told the caddie that he thought he was going to die.
And yet somehow the Tour rookie who entered the week 139th in earnings shot 64 on the Walt Disney World Resort's Palm Course for a three-stroke lead over seven players.
“I think he was scared,” said Adcox, who started working for Beljan this summer. “He kept saying he thought he was going to die. He just had that feeling. I don’t know why. But it was spooky.”
Adcox said he responded, “You’re not going to die. I’m the old guy here.”
As Beljan went to the hospital, it was unclear whether he would be able to continue as the leader on Saturday afternoon. Adcox’s spirits were raised when his boss went to the bathroom before paramedics took him away.
“So that’s a good sign,” Adcox said. “But (whether he keeps playing) that doesn’t matter to me. This is a golf tournament. He’s got many more golf tournaments. If he can’t go, that’s fine ... I’ve got no problem with that. But I hope he can.”
Beljan had experienced symptoms of elevated heart rate and shortness of breath before, the caddie said. His understanding was that Beljan fainted on an airplane about a month ago.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound Beljan, 28, said on the practice range before the round that he wasn’t feeling well and asked Adcox to get medical help. Paramedics checked him then and on the 10th tee, saying the blood pressure was poor midround, Adcox said. At other times Beljan sat on the bag and lay on the ground.
“I thought a lot of times he was going to stop,” Adcox said. “I didn’t even think he was going to start. For him to go on, that was his decision.”
And, as it happened, he played his best golf of a season in which he missed 11 cuts in 21 previous starts. Considering the circumstances, it perhaps was the round of the year, period, by anyone.
The 2011 Q-School graduate, who tied for third at the Greenbrier Classic and for 10th at the McGladrey Classic, came here looking for a high finish to keep his card. Then, after an opening 68, he made two eagles and six birdies Friday, fighting his health the whole way.
“I mean, I don’t know how he hit the golf ball feeling the way he was feeling,” Adcox said. “What a guy.”
Beljan, the 2002 U.S. Junior champion who went on to play at New Mexico, drank a lot of water and ate granola bars during the round. He and the caddie went into countdown mode on the back nine, counting the number of holes and shots left as he gutted it out.
“He was going to keep going until he passed out or they took him off,” Adcox said. “And a couple of times when he was putting he thought he might pass out.”
After hitting his second shot on the green on the first hole, Beljan again said he didn’t feel well. Then he rolled in an eagle putt and said he still felt ill.
Adcox said they didn’t know what Beljan shot or that he was leading by three until they finished. “We just talked about how he was feeling on each shot,” the caddie said.
As of 7:45 p.m., Beljan's agent reported that his player felt much better. After a few more tests, doctors hoped to be able to release him Friday night.
That question remains. Will he continue? Regardless, it seems safe to say he’ll have more people behind him than any other player.
• • •
Boo Weekley arrived here at No. 121 in earnings, about $66,000 ahead of the player just outside the top 125 line. But he was about as nervous as someone without a pulse, for after his instructor Scott Hamilton crunched the numbers for possibilities, Weekley’s brow was sweat-free.
“There’s no way I’m going to drop out unless the next four or five of the guys behind me really step up,” said Weekley, held back by injuries the past couple of years. “So there was no reason for all that (anxiety).”
In fact, Weekley said he came to the Disney tournament because Shane Burkett, a hunting and fishing buddy from back home in the Florida Panhandle, wanted to come and caddie.
Weekley's play Friday reflected a carefree attitude. He chipped in for eagle en route to a 67 on the Palm Course.
If Weekley was safe coming in, then one would think James Driscoll at 120 was as well. But Driscoll missed the cut by a shot and ended the day at a projected 124. He didn’t seem overly tense or worried.
“I have a little breathing room,” Driscoll said after a par of 72s. “People freak out, but this tournament doesn’t mean any more than any other tournament. That’s how I look at it.”
Driscoll is no stranger to the top-125 line. He began the Disney event last year at 125th. The night and morning before the final round, he threw up four times. He figures the ill feeling derived from a combination of nerves and a bad lobster sandwich from Saturday night. Whatever, he closed with 68, moved up to 114th and said he was glad the stressful week was over.
In other news involving players on the top 125 bubble:
Kevin Chappell (No. 123 coming in), shot 69 and moved to a safe spot at a tie for ninth. Jeff Maggert (122) made the cut with a shot to spare. Rod Pampling (124) bogeyed Nos. 16-17 at the Magnolia Course and Billy Mayfair (125) three-putted the last hole and each missed the cut by one stroke.
Gary Christian (127) and Bill Lunde (129) each missed the cut. D.J. Trahan (130) and Alex Rocha (128) are tied for 42nd and need high finishes to keep their cards.