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Beljan Back in the News


Charlie Beljan has returned again to the golf page in the sports sections following his near-victory Sunday in the Northern Trust Open. The 28-year-old Arizonan closed with a 4-under 67 to tie John Merrick in regulation at 11-under 273, but lost on the second sudden-death playoff when he bogeyed the short 10th hole at Riviera Country Club.

Beljan isn't unfamiliar with the glare of the press. While winning last November's Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic for his first PGA Tour title, he became one of the game's stories of the year while enduring public panic attacks on the course that riveted the attention of the golf world.

In one of the most amazing performances ever witnessed at a PGA Tour event, Beljan, then a rookie, fired an 8-under 64 in the second round despite suffering from shortness of breath, heart palpitations, nearly passing out and, afterwards, being carted off the course to a nearby hospital. On numerous occasions he wobbled as he walked, teetered as he stood, and sat - or laid - down between shots.

During that tournament Beljan admitted that he didn't like eating, a surprising admission since he's a robust 6'4", 215 pounds and one of the longest hitters on Tour; in 2012 he ranked second behind only Bubba Watson in driving distance, averaging 311.6 yards off the tee.

Last August while flying home from the Reno-Tahoe Open, a panic attack caused Beljan to collapse on the airplane. To avoid repeat mid-air episodes, he now travels to tournaments in a 45-foot motor home.

On Sunday after falling in the playoff, Beljan said he's now eating better, which has helped alleviate the panic attacks. "I actually eat food now," he told reporters at Riviera before getting into his RV and driving across the country to the Honda Classic, which starts February 28 at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

"That seems to be what helps calm me down. It's tough every morning. I sit in there and I've got to stuff it down my throat, but I know in the long run it's good. I get pumped up."

Actually playing golf and competing also helps. "The 45 minutes or hour prior to the round, I'm pretty jazzed and pretty jacked. But as soon as that first tee ball goes . . I make things such a big deal in my head for that hour leading up to it, and then as soon as we get out there, I feel I'm in my element and we are going to play some golf and I've got 18 holes and we'll see what happens."

Here's what else one of the game's most interesting characters had to tell reporters during his post-round Q&A Sunday evening.

MODERATOR: We want to welcome Charlie Beljan here to the interview room. Not the end that I would imagine you wanted, but you fought hard and you got yourself into the playoff. If you can just real quickly talk overall about the day and about this week.

CHARLIE BELJAN: This is my first time at Riviera. Beautiful place, I've already booked my reservations. I'm up in a bus parked in the Malibu RV Beach Park overlooking the ocean. Life's good. Life is good. Like I said, today was my fifth round at Riviera. Coming down the back nine, I didn't strike the ball that well, but God, I made every clutch putt that you would ever ask to make. And then to make that putt on 18 and hear the roar, was really special. Obviously not the way I wanted to end it, but you know what, you win some, you lose some, and that's how it goes.

But looking forward to Honda and I'm looking forward to this tournament next year, and it's nice after four missed cuts to come out here - the game has been feeling good, just haven't been scoring. You know, after the drama that unfolded last year, everything's finally starting to settle down and get back to playing golf, which is what I did this week. And who knows what else will happen this year.

MODERATOR: If you could, just walk us through 10, the second playoff hole.

CHARLIE BELJAN: The 10th hole, it's been birdie or bogey all week for me. I've laid up, I've made birdie; I've laid up, I've made bogey. I've gone for it twice now and made two bogeys. But the 10th hole, it's a tough golf hole. I don't really have anything good to say about the 10th hole. I think it's a funky golf hole. Obviously that's what Riviera, they are kind of known for the 10th hole. It is a great, short par 4. The green just needs to be a little more receptive. I'm glad that hole is not at TPC Scottsdale around the stadium where you see people making a big time fool of themselves.

Q. You said reservation; did you mean for next year?

CHARLIE BELJAN: Yes, sir. Oh, yeah, I already picked my spot, too. Oh, yeah.

Q. What's the spot?

CHARLIE BELJAN: Oh, it's sitting right at the cliff looking down Highway 1 coming up this way where the sun comes up over the horizon. Life is good up there.

Q. Going into next year, since you're looking forward to, that do you think you'll re think your strategy a little bit on 10?

CHARLIE BELJAN: You know, I've played it two different ways and I don't think either way is right. So I don't really know what the strategy is there, other than hoping you make par and that you move on.

Q. How have you learned to deal with the stress differently, being in this kind of situation, and how much fun was it, were you able to have fun getting into a playoff?

CHARLIE BELJAN: Yeah, Thursday and Friday for me suck. I think they are boring. I don't enjoy them. Saturday and Sunday, that's what we wheel and deal. And Saturday, to be able to tee it up with Mr. Els and Mr. Mickelson and beat them; I had them sign my advisor, because those are two guys that I've looked up to my whole life. And to go through that circus, hearing everybody scream for Phil, which is great, today was nothing. But I love the crowds. I love the people. That's what I thrive on. I just wish I could get in that same mind set on Thursday and Friday.

Q. Did you stay in the RV park this week?

CHARLIE BELJAN: Yes, sir, and I have a 2,260 mile drive to Honda. I have some Pit Passes to go to my first ever Daytona 500, my first ever NASCAR race. I'm going to stop and play Sawgrass on Friday. Never played there. I'm fortunate to play the Players this year, and do to the Daytona 500, cruise down to Honda and hopefully I'll be sitting in here end of the week at Honda.

Q. Merrick puts himself in really good position off the tee on 10, and you took a while to think about it. What were you thinking about and what happened on the swing itself?

CHARLIE BELJAN: I wasn't that upset with the drive I hit. I just knew I had to keep it left because he hit it right; I didn't think Merrick was in good position off the tee. I don't think there is a good position on No. 10. The only good position you're at is yesterday when I hit 2 iron onto the front edge of the green and I got to two-putt for birdie. Other than that, I don't think there is a good position on 10. Anything could happen. He hit a beautiful shot in there. It carried the bunker by a foot and it barely stopped from going in the other bunker.

So that's how it goes. My caddie and I was thinking about going for it, but to hit it in that little spot, there wasn't much chance. I hit a tough chip out of there. I hit a beautiful putt up there, and then I hit a good 4 footer that when it left the face, I thought we were going to the next hole and it just broke more than I thought.

Q. When you hit that second shot -

CHARLIE BELJAN: You know, I wasn't - I don't know Merrick's game that great. I don't know if he's a wonderful putter or if he's not, but I was banking on him missing the putt. I was thinking that four would get me to the next hole.

Q. You've talked about wanting to play in the Masters and your goal coming up was to somehow find a way into the field. How much were you thinking about that toward the end of today?

CHARLIE BELJAN: Walking up 18 with my caddie in regulation, he said, let's just slow down. I said, let's just picture ourselves at the Masters on the second shot and that's what we did, and it turned out well. To make that putt was beautiful. You know, the Masters was running through my mind for sure. That's the one golf tournament I want to play in the most. But unfortunately it didn't pan out. But I've still got about four or five opportunities I think before the deadline to get into that tournament.

Q. They talk about local knowledge being so key here. Was there one shot or stroke in the playoff where you feel not having played here before made a difference?

CHARLIE BELJAN: No, not at all. I think you could play here 10,000 times and still not know how to play No. 10. 18 is a great golf hole. You know, I just find it tough that we go to No. 10. To play a playoff hole, I think it's a great hole, don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking it, but it's just a tough hole to have a playoff on. We might as well go and put a windmill out there and hit some putts.

Q. Could you talk about your second shot into 18 in the playoff? You were in the middle of the fairway.

CHARLIE BELJAN: Yeah, I was in the middle of the fairway. I thought Johnny Merrick, God, he hit a beautiful shot from the right the rough underneath the trees and got it up there. I thought as he was putting at it with a pitching wedge in that cut lie, I was just aiming at the flag and hoping it would fall right into the middle of the green. But just like in the regulation, I pulled it off that lie, and it just - it just stayed left and you know, I made a great 4 or 5 footer there to keep myself in to go to No. 10.

Q. The comeback putt that you made in the playoff hole on 18. Have you ever stood over a putt as long as you did on that one?

CHARLIE BELJAN: I didn't realize I stood over it. Today was the first time on the PGA Tour I've been timed. I got timed out there on 14. But you know, I was just so in the moment and trying so hard and wanting it so bad, that I didn't want to look back and say, gosh, if I would have taken two extra seconds here, I might have not done this. You know, I made - putting is normally my downfall. Tee to green I never really have a problem. And this week showed me, especially these greens are tough to putt out here on poa annua with the ocean pull and that; to come down the stretch on the back nine, I made so many clutch putts, and all I'm going to do is build on that and look forward to my next opportunity.

Q. After all that's happened, have you built a routine to calm yourself down and kind of make sure that you're kind of staying in the moment?

CHARLIE BELJAN: Yeah, you know, I actually eat food now. That seems to be what helps calm me down. It's tough every morning. I sit in there and I've got to stuff it down my throat, but I know in the long run it's good. I get pumped up. The 45 minutes or hour prior to the round, I'm pretty jazzed and pretty jacked. But as soon as that first tee ball goes, just like when I think Karen asked me on Saturday, she said, you know, when did you - after when I teed off with Els and Mickelson, when did you realize you were just out there and I said, just after the first tee ball.

I make things such a big deal in my head for that hour leading up to it, and then as soon as we get out there, I feel I'm in my element and we are going to play some golf and I've got 18 holes and we'll see what happens.

Q. What does that mean, I actually eat food now?

CHARLIE BELJAN: I'm not a food connoisseur by any means. I don't live to eat. I eat to live.

MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in and good luck down the road.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.

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