Leader Beljan hospitalized, plans to play Round 3

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November 09, 2012
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One more shot, one more hole. That's what Charlie Beljan kept telling himself before being rushed to the hospital following his round Friday at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

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Beljan had trouble breathing, an increased heart rate, high blood pressure and numbness in his arms. Several times he hunched over gasping for air, sat down in the fairway to rest and backed away from shots.

"He kept saying he thought he was going to die," said Beljan's caddie, Rick Adcox. "A couple times I thought he might pass out. He just said 'I'm gonna keep going until I pass out or they take me off.'"

That Beljan finished his round was nothing short of amazing. Given the circumstances, that he shot 64 to take a three-shot lead was a miracle.

"He was trying to keep upright," said Ed Loar, who played alongside Beljan. "Hopefully he'll be all right. It was pretty bizarre."

Beljan said late Friday night that he's still planning to play in the third round.

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"As long as they tell me I'm not going to fall over and die," Beljan said in a phone interview with Golf Channel. "I'm hoping it was just a panic attack."

Beljan added that he's suffered small panic attacks in recent weeks. He's a new father with his wife Merisa having given birth to the couple's first child just seven weeks ago, and he came into the week 139th on the money list and with his TOUR card on the line. Only the top 125 after this week will have full playing status for next year.

"We're waiting on tests and X-rays," Beljan's agent, Andy Dawson, added via text message. "He's most likely being released (Friday) but if not is still going to plan on playing (Saturday). He feels a lot better."

The 28-year-old rookie's struggles started before he even began play. Beljan called for paramedics while warming up on the driving range, but he decided to tee it up anyway.

After reaching the par-5 first hole on the Palm Course in two shots, though, Beljan told his caddie he didn't feel well. Despite making eagle, Beljan said he still didn't feel well.

When Beljan made the turn, he called for paramedics. They checked his blood pressure and other vital signs on the 10th hole.

"I don't know how he hit the golf ball feeling the way he was feeling," Adcox said. "I thought he was going to stop when he heard what his blood pressure was."

Beljan made the decision to play on.

He birdied No. 10 and made his second eagle of the day, on the par-5 11th.

Beljan added two more birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 and finished with his second-lowest score of the year, surpassed only by a 62 in the second round of The Greenbrier Classic, where he tied for third.

"When I got done with 15 I really made a turn for the worse," Beljan said. "Withdrawing was definitely on my mind, but in my mind I knew if I could hang on the medical staff was close by."

Adcox, who has been on Beljan's bag since The Greenbrier Classic, said this was the first time he'd seen Beljan suffer these symptoms.

Last year, however, Beljan battled Coccidioidomycosis -- commonly referred to as valley fever, a fungal disease that can cause flu-like symptoms and a rash. Last month, according to Adcox, Beljan also had to be hospitalized after fainting during a plane ride back from Reno.

While Adcox said doctors didn't diagnose Beljan with anything after that incident, Friday's episode was certainly scary.

"I could tell in his eyes (something was wrong)," Adcox said. "It's not been good all day, except for the score."

That was perhaps the most remarkable thing about Beljan's afternoon. He went out in 31 with three birdies and an eagle before playing his first five holes on the back nine in 4 under.

"I wasn't thinking about golf at all," Beljan said. "I felt like I was hanging on for life."

Beljan made just two bogeys on the day and with two rounds to play in the season-ending event is in good position to retain his card.

"He's sure playing good golf," said Ed Loar, who played alongside Beljan. "He hit four of the best iron shots I've ever seen on the par 5s. It was awesome to watch."

Beljan wasn't even aware how well he was playing. There are few scoreboards on the Palm Course and he didn't know he was in the lead even once the round was over. Even then, he was barely coherent.

He had to stop to catch his breath halfway between the 18th hole and scoring area and later sat down on a couch before breaking down in tears.

Minutes after signing his scorecard, Beljan was taken away on a stretcher and transported to Celebration Hospital to be treated.

"I don't really remember much of (the round)," Belgian said. "14, 15, 16, 17 I don't remember much of. It was a struggle."

The rest of the field struggled just to keep up with Belgian. Seven players were tied for second, including Charles Howell III, Henrik Stenson and first-round leader Charlie Wi.

Ten others, including Tommy Gainey, who won the last event on the Fall Series, were another stroke back at 8 under.

Most of the attention, though, was on Beljan.

"I have to give Charlie credit for the way he finished," Adcox said. "I thought he was going to quit a few times.

"It doesn't matter to me. It's a golf tournament. He's got many more ahead of him. If he can't go, that's fine. I hope he can. He's in a great position."

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