‘I feel like I’m gonna die’
It’s been more than a decade since Charlie Beljan won his first — and to date only — tournament on the PGA Tour, the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in Orlando, Fla. — but he remembers the whirlwind week like it was yesterday.
On this week’s episode of Subpar, the 38-year-old pro joined hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz to riff on a number of topics, including the wild circumstances that preceded Beljan’s win.
“I just had my son like a month prior,” Beljan began. “And I’m goin’ into Disney that week, and I need a solo third to keep my Tour card. I teed off, and we played the hard course, the Magnolia course, first, I think I shot three or four under on Thursday. We go into Friday, I’m sittin’ there on the range feeling good, I’m smoking a cigarette. And then all of the sudden, man, something comes over me.”
Beljan told his caddie that he wasn’t feeling well, but with his job on the line, he knew withdrawing wasn’t an option. Beljan stopped hitting balls and tried putting, but didn’t feel any better.
“A paramedic came over, and they said my blood pressure was a little high,” Beljan said. “And I said, ‘Am I gonna die?’ And they said no. So then I said, all right, let’s go.”
Beljan had an incredible start to his round, eagling the first hole and birdieing the second.
“I shoot like seven under on the front nine, but the whole time, I feel like I’m gonna die,” he said. “I can’t feel my hands, everything’s kind of buzzing in my arms. My heart’s beatin’, but I know I can’t quit.”
Beljan had another visit from the medical team at the turn, and says they suggested he stop playing, but Beljan refused and continued on. He ultimately signed for a second-round 64, but couldn’t stop crying after finishing and ended up going straight to the hospital in an ambulance, where he underwent numerous tests. After spending the night at the hospital, he returned to his hotel room the next morning for a couple hours of sleep. He then fired a third-round 71.
Beljan was still in the mix in the final round and made a string of birdies to stay in contention. By the time he reached 18, his caddie told him he could win with a double-bogey. Beljan claimed victory with a final round of 69, 16 under par for the week.
As to what happened to him physically, Beljan said it was a panic attack.
“I’d never even heard the word anxiety,” Beljan said. “I had no idea what it was. I thought I was having a heart attack.”
Unfortunately for Beljan, though he won the tournament, the panic attacks didn’t stop. At one point, Beljan says his anxiety got so bad that he was unable to turn the doorknob in his hotel room to go play.
It wasn’t until just over two years ago that Beljan said his anxiety finally improved when he gave up drinking. Though Beljan hasn’t played a full schedule on the PGA Tour since 2014-15, he has hopes of launching a career renaissance of sorts.
“I’m thinking about doing it all over again, because I feel like I owe it to myself,” Beljan said. “If I made it to the Tour and won on the Tour and was able to stay out there for five or six years doing that, what could I do doing it the way that you should do it?”
For more from Beljan, including what he thinks would be the perfect ending to his golf career, check out the full interview below.