Beljan Pulls off Unlikely Victory


Charlie Beljan had a week to remember. After suffering a debilitating panic attack Friday that nearly forced him to withdraw from the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic and carried off to the hospital in an ambulance stretcher, the 28-year-old Arizonan somehow shot a 7-under 64 that day which vaulted him into the lead, a position he didn't relinquish all the way through Sunday's final round.

Ranked 139th on the season's money list before entering the tournament, Beljan closed with a 3-under 69 on the Magnolia course in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for a 72-hole total of 16-under 272, two strokes ahead of Matt Every and Robert Garrigus, who both shot 68s.

Once he made the short, meaningless bogey putt on the par-4 closing hole, Beljan threw his putter into the air and gave his caddie, Rick Adcox, a huge hug before being greeted by his wife and seven-week-old son. The victory, worth $846,000, moved Beljan to 63rd on the money list, assuring him a spot in the top-125 and a cherished 2013 Tour card.

"It was incredible," Beljan told reporters afterward. "I was just happy that the day was over. I was happy that I was a PGA Tour champion. I was happy that my wife and my baby were here. It still isn't real. Three weeks ago before McGladrey I was (ranked) 150 and hoping to play well so I didn't have to fly straight from here to Houston for Second Stage (of Tour Qualifying). And then I did well at McGladrey.

"I'm like, beautiful. Now I can go right to Final Stage," added Beljan, who became the fourth rookie to win on the Tour this year. "Now I'm like I don't have to go to Q School for a few years, and I get to go to Hawaii to start the year. And I don't know quite what other perks come with winning, but I know every single one of them is pretty darn good." (See below for his full post-round interview.)

Among the players on Sunday who also earned a Tour card next year was Kevin Chappell, who despite closing with a 1-over 73 and T-34 placement ended up at No. 125 on the money list. The 26-year-old Californian finished a mere $1,809 ahead of veteran Jerry Kelly, who for the first time in his career ended up outside the top-125.

"I guess not knowing is the hardest part out there," said Chappell, uncertain of where he was going to finish on the money list. "At least when you're trying to win a golf tournament you know what you gotta do. You know where you stand and you can just hit each shot to the best of your ability where it might be some opportunities out there that you maybe don't want to try because a bogey costs you more than a birdie gets you."

Another veteran, Tim Herron, closed with a 69 - despite a double-bogey on the par-4 17th hole - had a happier ending than Kelly. The 42-year-old Herron ended up tied for ninth at 11-under 277, earning enough money to finish 124th.

Herron, a four-time Tour winner, owed his final-round performance to experience. "The only thing I had was experience, 18 years out here. I had to collect my thoughts, hit a good drive on 18, which I did, and try to give myself a good birdie putt."

Yet Herron also said being around the block a time or two doesn't guarantee success. "You can be young, too," he added. "If you're young and naive, it's probably easier. The game gets harder as you get older, I think. It should be the other way around, but I think that's the way it is.

For all the PGA Tour's final money-list standings, visit http://www.pgatour.com/r/stats/current/money_projections-1.html. For complete scoring of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, visit http://www.pgatour.com/r/leaderboard.

After signing his scorecard and accepting the winner's check, Blejan met with reporters for the following Q&A. Here's what he had to say.

MODERATOR: Charlie, quite a week here at Walt Disney World resort for you. You win your first PGA Tour event in your 24th start. You're our fourth rookie to win on the Tour this year. Congratulations. What an experience. I guess you made about five birdies in a six hole stretch midway through the round.

CHARLIE BELJAN: I made things a little those five birdies in six holes made things a little bit easier. And then threw a double bogey in there on the easiest hole on the golf course, but my thinking was I knew I had a five shot lead. I made double and I actually wasn't even upset about it at all because I still had a three shot lead with four or five to play on a Sunday on the PGA Tour and that was all I thought about. I wasn't upset. Yeah, it would have been nice to make a par or have five shots or something, but everybody was still chasing me and that's the goal.

MODERATOR: Could you just sort of take us through your day and then go through the round if you could?

CHARLIE BELJAN: Yeah. This morning I woke up and I felt horrible again. It must be a blessing in disguise because all I think about is whether I'm going to play or not. I don't think about the task at hand. Got out here, got moving around; felt great. Once again, bogeyed the first hole and that kind of seems to be the best for me because it grabs my attention pretty quick. Just kept hitting fairways, hitting greens to give myself opportunities and had a beautiful stretch there, five or six holes or something that really took a lot of the pressure off.

I still felt the heat coming down because near 15, 16, 17 and 18 were no joke, and with Robert Garrigus and Matt Every and Brian Gay and those guys right there behind me the heat was still on. But once that ball landed in the fairway on 17 and I had three shots to play with, it made things I could take a deep breath and actually enjoy it for a split second.

MODERATOR: Can you maybe describe your emotions when you tapped in there at 18 to finally win?

CHARLIE BELJAN: It was incredible. I was just happy that the day was over. I was happy that I was a PGA Tour champion. I was happy that my wife and my baby were here. It still isn't real. Three weeks ago before McGladrey I was 150 and hoping to play well so I didn't have to fly straight from here to Houston for Second Stage. And then I did well at McGladrey. I'm like, beautiful. Now I can go right to Final Stage. Now I'm like I don't have to go to Q School for a few years, and I get to go to Hawaii to start the year. And I don't know quite what other perks come with winning, but I know every single one of them is pretty darn good.

MODERATOR: We'll go to questions.

Q. You referenced just a moment ago that you played some really good golf despite all the stress and the difficulties you were going through, especially Friday and Saturday. I wonder if there's any lesson to be learned there about the approach to the game. Sometimes you can get too mechanical or whatever the things were that were holding you back all year.

CHARLIE BELJAN: Yeah, I think I believe that everything happens for a reason, and sometimes days like Friday weren't very enjoyable, but the score was wonderful, and I think it taught me that it doesn't matter about your golf swing or your putting stroke or anything like that. We're all good enough out here. As long as you believe in yourself and you keep on fighting, that's what I did on Friday that was able to put me in the position to be here. So I was literally fighting for my life and I just think that you can't ever give up. There's no giving up. You never know what's going to happen in this game or in the game of life. You keep plugging away. You do the best you can.

But no longer will I be thinking about my golf swing on the first tee or in the middle of the seventh fairway. I'm just going to try to hit golf shots because that's what we do. We practice on the range for a reason and we play golf on the course for a reason. That's why we play the good shots and that's why the practice range is called the practice range.

Q. Charlie, do you have any sense at this point, hey, if I can handle what I handled the last three days, I can handle anything?

CHARLIE BELJAN: Yeah. I think you know, I've always in my career never at this level or even the Web.com Tour level, but I've always been a good closer. I've always been a good solid come from behind kind of guy. To go out there leading today and do what I did was unbelievable. I completely forgot your question.

Q. If you can handle the last three days, you can handle anything?

CHARLIE BELJAN: Yeah. Absolutely. And I'm just going to keep believing in myself because that's what after I finished third at the Greenbrier and made a couple bucks, all I started doing was believing in myself, and that's been the only difference. And shoot, I got out here to play with the best players in the world, and now I am one of the best players in the world, I think. I don't know if anybody else thinks it, but that doesn't really matter. As long as I think it, that's all that matters. And hopefully this will put me in the position, still looking for my No. 1 thing since I got out here and that's to play with Mr. Tiger Woods. So maybe now he'll consider me on a practice round or something.

Q. Charlie, if someone wasn't paying attention to what happened this week and you got back home and they say, how did your week ago, what would you tell them?

CHARLIE BELJAN: I would tell them it was just like any other Charlie Beljan week. 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. First of all, if they're not watching and they're one of my buddies, no longer am I talking to them.

It's a dream come true. Every day I drove underneath that Disney sign coming in here, it said welcome to Disney World where dreams come true or dreams happen or something, and that's just what happened this week, and I'm so grateful and so honored. When I got my Tour card this year last time, it was shock and awe for the first six, ten weeks out there, seeing these guys that I've been watching on TV or one day at the Greenbrier David Feherty all of a sudden following me, and I'm like, this is unbelievable. But now I truly believe I can do it and I look forward to the next event in Hawaii and another opportunity and another opportunity for at least two more years, which will be great. But life's good. Hopefully maybe somebody will call me and invite me to play in that Shark Shootout.

Q. Charlie, you said this morning you felt horrible again. If you could just maybe expand on that a little, how you got through that. And then secondly, any symptoms on the course like you had yesterday?

CHARLIE BELJAN: Right. No, this morning I woke up and my wife was kind enough to go sleep in the other room with the baby, so I got a great night's sleep. I woke up, I had a pounding headache and my stomach was hurting and I'm like, here I am with the lead on the PGA Tour and I can't even wake up and lay in bed and feel well. But you know, and like I said maybe it was a blessing in disguise. It all happens for a reason. I kind of just moped around and didn't think much of the day and hit my first tee shot and my second shot and bogeyed the first hole. And I played the second hole through the 18th hole. And I felt great on the golf course, other than my heart was coming out of my chest and I was just trying to get through. But physically and that, I felt wonderful.

Q. (Inaudible)?

CHARLIE BELJAN: For a great reason. Friday it was coming out of my chest for a bad reason.

Q. Charlie, a couple things. It looked like when you missed the putt on 5, you got pretty agitated, and also the approach on 7. You were right in the thick of it then. How were you feeling at that point, one, and then I'll let you digest that. I couldn't remember the other question.

CHARLIE BELJAN: 5, these greens got speedy today. They were fast, and I like to give them a run, and unfortunately I kept grabbing them way too far by. Five was agitating because that was a hole for a 2 and I walk away with a bogey. And then shoot, 7, I was trying to play the safe side of the pin and pulled it. I got a drop from the sprinkler head and that kind of started my birdie run. I putted it in from off the green there. I knew I was hitting it well and as long as I just kept giving myself opportunities I was going to be all right. That's what I continued to do and I happened to capitalize on four or five of them in a row.

And that birdie on 15 after the double, that was a big putt, not just you know, not just to increase the lead, but mainly just to as a bounce back. That's what I always try to do. You make a bad one, let's try to make a good one and get the mojo and get your attitude back on track.

Q. On the birdie at 12, the end of that stretch there, you were walking. Take us through that.

CHARLIE BELJAN: My caddie told me it was going to be fast. I knew it was going to be fast, and right when I hit it, I literally thought I was going to be putting again, maybe even chipping because I thought it was off the green. I honestly did. So I just started walking after it. I was like, this looks good, this looks good. This looks good. And then it dropped. I couldn't believe it. That was huge there because I was going to have another big par putt at least 10 feet or more coming back. But then I went to the next hole, the easiest hole and gave it right back, but that's how golf goes.

Q. When you think back to this week, are the first thoughts going to be the way you threw your putter after the 18th when you tapped in or Friday, the stuff?

CHARLIE BELJAN: I don't remember throwing my putter on the 18th after I tapped in. I will remember this week will be Friday. Friday was frightening. You know, I know that physically I'm okay. I'm going to go and try to figure a few things out when I get home and now I got some time off and no stress. So that might help. But Friday is what I will remember from this week and then obviously being the champion of the tournament. I won't forget that either. But Friday was if I can do what I did on Friday, there's nothing that's not possible for me.

Q. Maybe it was on Saturday, you said coming out I might go two holes. I might go 18. But with a three shot lead did you really think you might only go two holes?

CHARLIE BELJAN: I did. I was scared coming out Saturday because I was fearful of what I went through Friday and going through that again, and I didn't know if I was going to play one, two or 18. And like I said, I think that was maybe a blessing in disguise because I wasn't thinking about the golf. I was just trying to get through one shot, walk to my next, hit the next shot. I wasn't thinking about, oh, he's doing this or I just did that. I was just I was thinking about my health, which is most important, and that was what I was focused on. So I guess maybe I should start maybe a little food poisoning or something before each round or try to start thinking about that kind of stuff.

Q. You and your wife had talked about how cool it would be to celebrate together on the 18th. I'm sure you remember hoisting your son.

CHARLIE BELJAN: Yeah.

Q. Can you just kind of talk about the feelings that you felt in that moment?

CHARLIE BELJAN: Yeah. When I first met my wife, she didn't know a thing about golf. She actually went and got the book "Golf For Dummies" so she could learn a couple things. Now she might know more than that. But the tournaments we've watched together, when she sees the families and I see the families run out and the kids are there, that's why we play this game is to win, and to be able to have that opportunity and have her there, that was I can't wait to watch it on TV like all the other couples and champions that I've watched have their families come out. I can't wait to see what mine actually looked like.

Q. So when you wake up one morning and you feel good and great and the sun's shining and everything's happy you're in the WD?

CHARLIE BELJAN: I'm going to stay in bed. I'm not coming out.

Q. (Inaudible).

CHARLIE BELJAN: Am I in all those? Okay.

Q. (Inaudible).

CHARLIE BELJAN: Probably I would think Kapalua just because it's on the champions, and that's something that everybody wants to be a part of. But Arnie and Jack, I've never had a chance to meet either one of them, so to be able to go there, play there at their home tournament or the tournament that they host and take so much pride in and to hopefully meet them there, those will be what sticks out in what I'm looking forward to the most.

MODERATOR: Anything else? Charlie, congratulations again.

CHARLIE BELJAN: Thank you everybody. I appreciate your time.

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


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