Beljan brings awareness, inspiration to Hyundai TOC

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After suffering a panic attack in Round 2 at Disney, Beljan went on to claim his first TOUR title.
January 03, 2013
Brian Wacker

Charlie Beljan’s heart is beating a little faster than normal this week -- albeit for a different reason than last November, when he suffered a panic attack that sent him to the hospital in the middle of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

If dreams do come true at Disney, Beljan is living his this week on the shores of Maui, site of the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

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“Changed some eating habits, changed some fitness routines,” said Beljan from Kapalua, where the only stress he faced this week was trying to figure out a way to get his new motor home over to the island (he couldn’t). “Been working hard on my short game and looking forward to a great week here. I figured this was the best spot -- there's a tournament in April that I would like to get invited to.”

Whether he qualifies for the Masters or not, Beljan has somewhat inadvertently helped shed light on an affliction that affects roughly 1 in 20 Americans.

Panic attacks can strike at any time -- in the car, at the mall, while you’re sleeping and, apparently, on the golf course -- and they have many variations.

Symptoms usually peak in about 10 minutes, according to the Mayo Clinic. In Beljan’s case, his increased heart rate, shortness of breath, high blood pressure and numbness in his arms stayed with him for most of his second round at Disney.

Several times that day, Beljan took a knee or laid on his back gasping for air before being taken by ambulance to a local hospital after shooting one of the more remarkable 64s you’ll ever see.

As it turns out, Beljan is not the only player on the PGA TOUR who has suffered a panic attack -- just perhaps the only one who did so in the middle of a round.

“I've had a lot of panic attacks off the golf course,” said Bubba Watson. “I actually went to the hospital three times thinking I was having something wrong with my heart.”

Beljan and Watson admittedly share some personality traits.

Watson suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder, while Beljan has a hard time sitting still, which explains his penchant for high-speed motorcycles and a desire to one day be strapped to the wing of a bi-plane.

Inside the ropes of a golf tournament, however, each finds peace more often than not. And just like in Beljan’s case, Watson’s doctors could find nothing otherwise medically wrong with him.

“We've done tests, all kind of things,” Watson said. “(My doctor) told me basically I need medicine that calms me down. I don't take medicine, so I would never do that.”

If it were up to Beljan, that’s all he’d take.

“I don't like food,” Beljan said. “I wish I could swallow a few pills every morning and not have to chew on anything the rest of the day.”

Instead, though, Beljan has eaten the same Subway sandwich for lunch five days a week for the last eight years and hasn’t changed it and he’s “not willing to try.”

Even in Maui, where Beljan is playing for the first time only after winning the final event of the 2012 season, he’s taking a pass. Beljan and his wife went to a luau Wednesday night, but he didn’t eat any of the food.

“They had a five-course meal and I didn't take a bite of any of it because I wasn't willing to try it,” he said.

What he is willing to do is spread the word on the condition he’s suffered from.

“I’d like to be known as a golfer and a free spirit and a fun-loving guy, but at the same time, what I experienced out there and what everybody saw brought a lot of attention to panic attacks and anxiety attacks and what a big deal it is,” said Beljan, who’s had over 2,000 media requests this week.

“I've gotten a lot of letters and a lot of e-mails and stuff like that saying that I've been an inspiration. It's been pretty neat because I've touched people other than just, you know, playing golf.”

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