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February 16 2013

7:21 PM

Beljan makes Saturday memorable

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- When Charlie Beljan got the text message on Friday night his heart started pounding.

Not to worry, though. The man who famously played through an anxiety attack to win the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic last November wasn't headed for another visit to the emergency room.

Beljan was just excited to find out he'd be playing with a pair of World Golf Hall of Famers -- Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els -- in the third round of the Northern Trust Open. And not only did he play with the two for the first time on Saturday, he shot the lowest score.

Not bad for a guy who was making his living on the Gateway Tour just 24 months ago.

"(I was) lucky enough last year to get on the PGA TOUR and to get a victory and to tee it up with Mr. Els and Mr. Mickelson and to have a day like I did is something that I'll never forget," Beljan said after signing for his 68. "(I) had them both sign my visor and I'll put it in a nice frame at home so I'll always have something to remember."

Beljan acknowleged Els, who shot 73, and Mickelson, who had a 72, likely aren't asked to sign a playing partner's visor too often -- unless, of course, it's after a pro-am round.

"But hey, I'll ask -- what's the worst they are going to tell me, is no?" Beljan said. "But no, it was very kind for them both to do that, and (I) appreciated it."

Beljan's round of 68 left him in a tie for seventh with Josh Teater at 7 under, trailing Bill Haas by five strokes. He got untracked on the back nine with three straight birdies to start before making a final one from 6 feet at the par-5 17th.

"I wish I could have had a few more putts drop but I've got a great chance tomorrow and look forward to it," Beljan said. "I could have birdied every hole on the back nine realistically without stretching it for making more than a 15- or 20-footer. These greens are tough, especially poa annua in the afternoon, that's how it goes. 

"If you told me I was going to shoot 3 under par or if I was going to shoot even par, I would have been thrilled to death.  I'm ecstatic, I'm happy, life's good."

Beljan, who is playing in the Northern Trust Open for the first time, has soaked up the atmosphere at Riviera. He loves looking at the old photos around the clubhouse and he says he's already booked a spot for his RV for next year.

"I can't wait to come back," Beljan said. "I'm fortunate to be here and fortunate to have an opportunity like I did today, and to go ahead and beat those boys is something, it's just one day of golf. It was one great day."

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