Charlie Beljan overcomes panic attack for first PGA Tour win

Sam Greenwood

Rookie Charlie Beljan earned his first PGA Tour win on Sunday, capturing the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, just days after suffering a severe panic attack.

What a weekend it was for PGA Tour rookie Charlie Beljan, who went from fearing for his life on Friday to his first PGA Tour win on Sunday and a plea to Tiger Woods for a golf date.

“Still looking for my No. 1 thing since I got out here and that's to play with Mr.Tiger Woods,” Beljan told reporters after rebounding from a severe panic attack that landed him in the hospital Friday night to a two-shot win at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic that guaranteed he’ll tee it up with Woods, Rory McIlroy, and the rest of the guys in 2013. “Maybe now he’ll consider me on a practice round or something.”

Beljan entered the week No. 139 on the tour money list and needed to get into the top 125 to secure full-time playing privileges for the 2013 season. Thanks to his finish at 63rd in earnings, the 28-year-old from Arizona earned a two-year exemption, a spot in the season-opening Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, and a start at next year’s PGA Championship, where he’ll for sure share space with Woods, et al.

The triumph was all the more amazing, given what transpired Friday and into Saturday morning. Beljan had so much trouble breathing during Friday’s round on the Palm course course at Walt Disney World resort that he told his caddie he feared he was going to die. Meanwhile, he played the round of his life, recording an 8-under 64.

After signing his scorecard, emergency medical personnel loaded him onto a stretcher and transported him to a local hospital, where he spent much of the night. He was back on the course Saturday, and by Sunday he had turned his worst nightmare into what every duffer dreams about -- a win on golf’s biggest stage.

“Just like any other Charlie Beljan week,” said the golfer, who played Sunday’s finale attired in Gary Player black. “It wouldn't be me or it wouldn't be normal for me just to kind of cruise through the week and somehow win by a couple. Throughout my golfing career and throughout my life I've always had different little goofy obstacles come up that I've had to overcome, and somehow I've done it and I believe it's made me stronger.”

While his scores (68, 64, 71, 69) may argue otherwise, none of it came easily for Beljan, who worried all weekend that he would end up back in the hospital. Indeed, he began his final round with a “pounding headache” and churning in his gut.

But all that was history after Beljan tapped in for bogey on the 18th, tossed his putter in the air, broke out his best Woods-like fist pump, and hugged and kissed his wife.

“It’s a dream come true,” Beljan said.

Disney himself could not have scripted a more magical ending.

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