Beljan takes scary approach for lead

Charlie Beljan finished his round 1-under par on the Magnolia Course during the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

Charlie Beljan finished his round 1-under par on the Magnolia Course during the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – So here’s one way to take a two-shot lead after 54 holes of a PGA Tour event: Fight panic attacks, arm numbness, high blood pressure and hyperventilation in the third round and think you are going to die. Get rushed to a hospital by ambulance, spend Friday night there with your size-15 golf shoes on till 4:30 a.m. and think there’s a 99.9 percent chance you won’t play Saturday. Get about 90 minutes of sleep and then feel your swing is worse than it has been for a long time.

Welcome to the scary and happy world of Tour rookie Charlie Beljan.

“Yesterday was a nightmare and today was a dream come true,” a tired Beljan said after shooting 71 for 13-under-par 203 and a two-shot lead over Brian Gay, Josh Teater and Charlie Wi.

Beljan’s story reads like fiction. But it is a compelling reality show at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, at Disney World, where, of course, dreams come true.

“I don’t know how I am where I am now,” Beljan said after a round that included two three-putt bogeys on the first three holes. “I mean, yesterday I thought I was going to die. I honestly feared for my life.”

Remarkably, he had that feeling while shooting a 64 and taking a three-stroke edge. He felt he was going to pass out numerous times. A day later he figured he excelled thanks to “mind over matter.”

His caddie, Rick “Handlebar” Adcox marveled as well over that success under duress. “Yesterday was pretty special,” Adcox said. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

Adcox said their amateur partner in Round 2, former Tampa Bay Bucanners quarterback Parnell Dickinson, also couldn’t believe how well Beljan performed. “He said, ‘I want that guy on my team. He’s got guts,’ ” Adcox said.

In Round 3, Beljan felt some chest tightness late in the front nine, but other than that fatigue was the enemy.

“I was beat,” the 6-4 Beljan said afterward.

He drank so many bottles of vitamin water that his caddie finally told him he couldn’t have any more. He walked slowly throughout the round, sometimes lagging 50-80 yards behind the others in his threesome. But he got energy and felt better as he went along.

“I knew what the rewards were,” said the long-hitting Beljan, at 139th in earnings trying to crack the top 125 and keep his Tour card. “That kept me going.”

That’s heady stuff for someone who said he didn’t know if he’d be able to play any holes when he arrived at the Magnolia Course on Saturday morning after being discharged from Celebration Hospital and cleaning up at his hotel.

“A great day of golf,” said the man who began the round feeling “scared, nervous and embarrassed about yesterday.”

Hence, beware the ailing golfer, Chapter 10,498.

Beljan said he was so out of it while leading the day before that on the 15th hole he wondered if he was going to make the 36-hole cut. He didn’t know he had a 3-shot lead until he checked his cellular phone in the hospital at about 10 p.m.

“That was probably the hardest day of my life,” said Beljan, the 2002 U.S. Junior Amateur champion before playing at New Mexico. “I’ve never been that scared.”

Doctors ran a battery of tests and deemed him OK to leave. Beljan said they offered no diagnosis, other than to add to his take that he was suffering an “an anxiety or panic attack that kind of spun out of control for six hours or so.”

Because of all those tests, Beljan didn’t eat until 11 p.m., when his manager, Andy Dawson, went to the cafeteria and bought three grilled cheese sandwiches.

Three months ago, Beljan passed out on an airplane because of fatigue, and the plane made an emergency landing so he could get treatment. Since then, Beljan has had an estimated six or seven panic attacks. But numerous doctor exams and “every test in the world” have turned up the same results: Healthy.

He plans to have another head-to-toe checkup at the Mayo Clinic upon returning home to Arizona. For now, he figures the airplane fainting and a bout with Valley Fever a couple of years ago aren’t related to his condition this week.

“I’ve always had interesting, goofy things come up,” he said. “There’s always got to be a big bump or mountain to climb.”

Beljan played in his first Tour event in January, got married in March and had a child in September. He also had hand surgery.

“It’s been a long, exciting, stressful, crazy year,” he said. “But hopefully we’re going to end it with a bang.”

His wife is an emergency medical technician and has a Masters degree in psychology. She flew in Saturday night for the final round, as did their 7-week-old baby and his and her mothers. But they are staying at a different hotel.

“After one hour of sleep, I’m looking forward to a meal and some shut-eye,” he said.

He needs probably a top-10 finish to keep his card. But he was setting his sights higher.

“My wife and I have always talked about how cool it is to see the the family and kids run out on the green on the 18th hole after somebody wins,” Beljan said here at Disney World. “That would be the ultimate dream come true.”

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