Saturday, November 10, 2012
Charlie Beljan maintains lead
By Bob Harig ESPN.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Charlie Beljan spent Friday night in a hospital, yet maintained his lead Saturday at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic by shooting 1-under-par 71 at Disney's Magnolia Course.
Beljan, who complained of chest pains, shortness of breath and numbness in his arms during a second-round 64 on Friday, owns a 2-shot advantage over Brian Gay, Josh Teater and Charlie Wi.
Released from nearby Celebration Hospital on Saturday morning after a sleepless night, Beljan was unsure how he'd fare before the round began. Despite a doctor's recommendation not to play, Beljan was back at the Walt Disney World Resort on Saturday morning.
Harig: Beljan battles on at Disney
Faced with potential life-threatening health issues, Charlie Beljan kept it together and refused to give up on what could be a life-changing week, writes Bob Harig. Story
"It was nice to walk around and be able to smile," Beljan said after the round. "I like having fun and talking to people. And yesterday was hanging on for my life and keeping to myself. So today, I felt a lot more in my environment. (I) enjoyed being out there.
"It was a big relief. Really, it was almost nice, not that that happened yesterday, but teeing it up today, I didn't really think of the three-shot lead or in the leader group on Saturday on the PGA Tour. I was just trying to go out there and put one foot in front of the other and see what happened."
Beljan, 28, a PGA Tour rookie, held the 36-hole lead after a second-round 64 that came despite shortness of breath, chest pains, numbness in his arms and a feeling that he was going to faint.
After signing his scorecard, Beljan was taken by stretcher to a waiting ambulance and a trip to Celebration Hospital. He said he barely slept and was still wearing his golf shoes until 4:30 a.m.
"Still not feeling that great, but shoot, the position I'm in, it's kind of hard not to show up,'' Beljan said Saturday morning. "But an hour of sleep, and ... 10:55, we'll give it a whirl, give it our best shot.''
Remarkably, Beljan made two eagles and six birdies Friday in a 64 that might rank as the round of the year. Beljan said he remembers little of it, and at one point wondered if he was going to make the cut.
He took a three-stroke lead and can use a good week as he ranks 139th on the PGA Tour in earnings, having posted just two top-10 finishes all season. Only the top 125 will be fully exempt for 2013, and this is the last official event of the PGA Tour season.
Beljan sought medical attention before his round Friday and clearly was in distress by the back nine, when he repeatedly bent over or even went to the ground between shots. Medical personnel attended to him throughout.
At the hospital, Beljan said, a battery of tests were run, with no reason given for his troubles. Beljan said earlier this year on a flight after the Reno-Tahoe Open he fainted on the plane.
"Well, they released me this morning and they wouldn't have done that ... they released me saying that they thought I was good enough maybe not to go play golf, but at least to leave the hospital,'' Beljan said. "I'm making the decision to come out here and play. Who knows if we'll last two holes. Who knows if we'll last 18 holes. We're just going to take it one shot at a time, which I did yesterday and ended up pretty good.
Charlie Beljan hits a tee shot on the ninth hole during the third round of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals tournament.
"A little nerve-racking going out there today just strictly for the way that I'm feeling. I haven't even thought about the three-shot lead or the golf really. It's been my health is the No. 1 thing.''
Beljan admitted he was scared as Friday transpired.
"I've never been that scared,'' he said. "All the doctors said that they thought everything was good. They thought maybe it was just an anxiety, turned into a panic attack, and then not having a chance to kind of sit down and take a breather. And then the paramedics show up out there and just everything kind of spiraled. We'll see what we can do today, though. We look forward to it. And hopefully regardless of the score, just complete 18 holes.''
Now comes the hard work.
Beljan's wife, 7-week-old son and mother-in-law were flying in from Phoenix for the final round. He has long dreamed of how cool it would be to have his family come onto the green to celebrate his first PGA Tour win.
But there's a long way to go.
Beljan's three-shot lead was gone before he stepped onto the fourth tee in the third round. He will start Sunday with 11 players separated by three shots. That includes Sea Island winner Tommy Gainey and Camilo Villegas, winless in four years, along with Robert Garrigus, who won at Disney two years ago. The group at 205 included Vaughn Taylor, who like Beljan is making a last-ditch effort to keep his card.
Beljan showed off his power on the opening hole when he was behind a tree 183 yards from the hole. He hit a pitching wedge straight up and over the tree, with enough on it to reach the green. He three-putted from 50 feet, however, and then dropped another shot on the par-3 third with a three-putt from about 25 feet on the fringe.
His only other bogey came from a bunker on the 12th.
Several players made a run at him -- Wi, Gainey among them -- and Charles Howell III was right in the mix. Howell was one shot out of the lead until driving into the water on the 17th to make triple bogey, and then making bogey on the last hole to finish five shots behind.
After getting his card at Q-school last year, Beljan had hand surgery before starting the season. He found out at the Sony Open that he was going to be a father. He was married in March. He played poorly all year except for one week at the Greenbrier. His baby was born at the end of the FedEx Cup season. He fainted on the plane. He at least secured a spot inside the top 150, only to realize that won't mean as much next year because of a shorter season.
"It's been a long, exciting, hectic, crazy, stressful year," he said. "But hopefully, we're going to end it with a bang."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.