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Charlie Beljan's Win at Disney Begs the Question: Fearless or Foolish?

Beljan golfer, not waffles.
Beljan golfer, not waffles.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Robert HartmanCorrespondent INovember 13, 2012

Was Charlie Beljan's win at Disney a monster victory on the PGA Tour or a foolish example of pushing one's fortune?

The margin for making it on the PGA Tour is about the distance between grooves on Charlie Beljan's sand wedge.

When someone rises through the ranks and has an opportunity to reach two-years immunity on the PGA Tour, how to reconcile the cost?

The former U.S. Junior Champion knows that paying the toll of climbing the ladder to the PGA Tour is not easy. He played the Gateway Tour, which offers different amenities than a week at Disney World.

Covering the Greenbrier Classic this past July, I stumbled upon PGA Tour up-and-comer Charlie Beljan. Actually, Beljan visited the interview room after firing a second round with a share of second place with Martin Flores and Jonathan Byrd.

I did not think too much about it at the time. I simply took notes and was amazed at the gregarious tomato-headed golfer who seemed to have a quip for every question and an attitude about golf that was decidedly different.  

My notes were to the point:

One stroke off the pace set by Webb Simpson are three more young guns in Jonathan Byrd, Charlie Beljan and Martin Flores. Forty-somethings Jerry Kelly and Jeff Maggert round off the players one stroke behind Simpson heading into the weekend. Tom Watson, the golf pro emeritus at the Greenbrier, made the cut with a two-round total of two-under par. 

For Beljan, golfer, not waffles, the reality of making it from the Gateway Tour to the PGA TOUR was a heart-thumping experience he enjoys. 

“ I like getting my heart beating,” said Beljan. That would explain why the PGA TOUR media guide says he would like to be strapped to the wing of a bi-plane. He adds, “The other thing I’d like to dothey have a big motorcycle race, it’s called the Isle of TT Race. I don’t even know where it is, but one day I’d like to take my motorcycle and run that 39-mile stretch.” 

Beljan plays golf against the world's best. And on his off days he might as well want to bungee jump off the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia.

He also said, "I drive a smart car and my clubs barely fit inside." He finished third at the Greenbrier Classic.

This is where his week at Disney seems like a self-imposed crucible.

He did not have any trouble getting his heart beating on Friday in the second round. In fact, that was the problem.  

He struggled with shortness of breath, lethargy and lack of focus. It was painful for the tournament staff, gallery and golf fans everywhere to witness his struggles. If it were a boxing match, it would have been stopped.  

Not in golf. In golf, the ability to continue rests with the player.

This was not really about a golf score. This was about survival. This was about an individual's health.  

He somehow completed this round in amazing fashion, shooting an eight-under-par 64.

Doctors finally finished tests Friday that included a CAT scan, x-rays and blood work. They determined that there was no reason for Beljan not to continue the tournament.

And he did.

He won, and with it won an exemption for two-years on the PGA Tour, which includes invitations to events at which he will be guaranteed a paycheck—as long as he finishes the event.

Beljan is a finisher, and for the sake of his health, let's hope he keeps the panic attacks to a minimum.

His decision to keep playing proved rewarding.  

But at what point could the importance of winning a golf tournament dog-leg into dire health circumstances?

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