There may never have been a more dramatic win on the PGA Tour.
Charlie Beljan came into the 2012 season's final stop - the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic last month in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. - 14 spots away from an exemption for the 2013 season.
His victory there has him in Kapalua this week for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course - almost unbelievable, even for Beljan himself.
Charlie Beljan was hospitalized overnight between the second and third rounds of last month’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic because of a panic attack, but won the event by two shots.
AP file photo
Charlie Beljan and caddie Rick Adcox go for a hug after Beljan won the final event of the PGA Tour’s 2012 season.
AP file photo
"I'm very excited to be going to Maui and play in the tournament," the 28-year-old said in a telephone interview earlier this month. "Every time I hear 'Tournament of Champions' I still laugh because I don't think that it is really happening."
In Florida, he needed a top-10 finish to secure a spot in the top 125 on the money list and a tour card for the coming season. He had two top-10s and 13 missed cuts in his first 21 events in 2012.
After an opening-round 68, Beljan felt good. On the driving range for the second round, he felt terrible, overcome by a panic attack.
HYUNDAI TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS FIELD
At Kapalua Plantation Course
(x-won on PGA Tour for first time in 2012)
x-Charlie Beljan, x-Jonas Blixt, Keegan Bradley, Ben Curtis, Jason Dufner, x-Rickie Fowler, x-Tommy Gainey, Bill Haas, J.J. Henry, x-John Huh, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, x-Marc Leishman, Hunter Mahan, George McNeill, Ryan Moore, Carl Pettersson, Scott Piercy, x-Ted Potter Jr., Ian Poulter, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Scott Stallings, x-Kyle Stanley, Steve Stricker, Johnson Wagner, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson, Mark Wilson.
"He kept saying he thought he was going to die," Beljan's caddie, Rick Adcox, said to the media that day. "A couple times I thought he might pass out. He just said, 'I'm gonna keep going until I pass out or they take me off.' "
Beljan staggered through 18 holes, a five-hour stress test. To call the 64 the round of his life may not be doing the performance justice.
Medical personnel in the gallery monitored his pulse, while he couldn't shake the fear of a heart attack. He left the grounds in an ambulance and spent the night in a hospital, hooked to machines and still wearing his golf shoes. A battery of tests revealed nothing physically wrong.
Then, he went out and posted weekend rounds of 71 and 69 to win by two shots.
Beljan is joined on Maui by his wife Merisa and their 4-month-old son. His first panic attack came in August, a month before his son was born, forcing a plane to make an unscheduled landing.
"I just bought an RV because I don't care for the hotels and the traveling," Beljan said. "Now, I have a family. Unfortunately (the RV) doesn't have a propeller, so I'm not going to be able to get it to Hawaii, but to be able to play in the Tournament of Champions with the best players in the world, the guys who have won, what an honor."
Beljan said his victory at the Disney event has meant more than he could have imagined.
"It is amazing how many people it has touched, not only in the golfing world, but in the health world, from the standpoint of how many people on a day-to-day basis actually do suffer from these panic attacks," he said. "They are anxiety attacks and whether it is in the cubicle, or the comfort of their own home, I kind of put it in the public eye. I have got a lot of different letters in the mailbox and emails and stuff like that saying that I was kind of an inspiration to different people that have had to fight this and that has been very neat."
Beljan said he is still just Charlie, a guy who had to go to Q-School after playing mini-tours and qualifying for the U.S. Open in 2008 and 2009.
"I get two years (exempt) on the PGA Tour, I have a couple extra dollars in my bank account, but I'm still hanging out with my same buddies, still playing at my same golf course," he said. "I'm not one of those guys that is going to change."
A win this week would satisfy another lifelong aim - earning a berth in the Masters.
"The ultimate goal is I'd like to come to Kapalua and beat 25 or 26 guys and get into Augusta," he said. "Usually I take a month off, but I have been working hard, right back at it, grinding hard because I'd like to come to Maui and really start off my year with a bang."
Beljan, a 2007 graduate of the University of New Mexico who now lives in Mesa, Ariz., said the Plantation's par-73, 7,411-yard layout is a perfect fit. Beljan ranked second on tour in driving distance last season, at 311.9 yards, but hit just 58.13 percent of fairways, which ranked 140th.
"I have heard that Kapalua is nothing but right up my alley," he said. "I hit the driver long and straight, I love to hit it, I enjoy playing in the wind. It is just a matter of making a couple putts, but I have heard from friends and playing competitors that it fits my game perfectly."
Beljan's confidence is high enough that he speaks of playing in the 2014 Ryder Cup.
"I think I'm one of the best players in the world and I just want to keep on going out there and proving it," he said. "Hoisting those trophies is a pretty good deal."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org