Charlie Beljan is the hands down recipient of the Popup Player of the Day award for a very low round delivered by an unlikely player. But it wasn’t so much the score — although he tied for low round of the day — it was what he had to go through to shoot that score.
He began feeling unwell on the driving range at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Disney World, and asked his caddie, Rick Adcox, to find a doctor. He was experiencing shortness of breath and an elevated heart rate:
He asked me to go find a doctor at the beginning, and I did. The paramedics come over. We called them at the turn. They were on No. 10 waiting on him. Blood pressure wasn’t good then. For him to go on, that was pretty much his decision.
He started with an eagle on the 1st hole of the Palm Course and birdies on 3, 5 and 7. After the paramedics got done with him on 10, he dispatched 10 with a birdie and then an eagle on 11. The Golf Channel put him on 59 watch. They had to plan a little because most of the cameras were over on the Magnolia Course, the host course for the tournament.
In the meantime, his symptoms grew worse and he told his caddie that he thought he was going to die. He wasn’t kidding and he was scared. He bogeyed 12.
The Golf Channel’s on-course commentator, Jerry Foltz, picked him up on the 13th and thought he seemed in good spirits. Perhaps because he bounced back with a birdie on 13…and another on 14. He was on fire; 9-under with four holes to go.
But the symptoms caught up with him and it was all he could do to keep going. He would bend over and put his hands on his knees. He would sit on the butt end of his bag. He would sit in the fairway. He would lie down in the shade. Every time he had to get up to play a shot, it seemed an heroic undertaking.
And still he plodded on; pars on 15 and 16. When Adcox attempted to help him read his par putt on 17, he said, “I don’t care. I just want to get out of here.” He missed it.
He managed a par on 18 and as he was walking from the green to scoring, his emotions overcame him and he began to cry. Later he said, “I don’t really remember much of (the round). 14, 15, 16, 17, I don’t remember much of. It was a struggle.”
Add in the fact that his blood pressure was elevated, he was experiencing chest pains and his arms were tingling, he was either crazy to keep going or incredibly brave.
But with a brand new baby at home, a season in tatters and a round going that could fix it all, he persisted. You had to see it.
Beljan said late Friday night from the hospital that he was feeling much better and that he was still planning to play in the third round.
“As long as they tell me I’m not going to fall over and die,” Beljan said in a phone interview with Golf Channel. “I’m hoping it was just a panic attack.” He’s had those before.
He shot a second round, 8-under 64 on the Palm Course. That got him to 12-under at the halfway point and gave him a 3-shot lead over seven players at 9-under and ten players at 8-under. Talk about a tight leaderboard.
Beljan came into the tournament ranked 139 and needed a great week to get into the Top 125 on the Money List and save his card. He still has two rounds to go, but he’s off to a great start.
Now the question becomes, can he back up a very low round with another good one to keep the hounds at bay?
It’s why we watch.
And it’s why Charlie Beljan is the Popup Player of the Day.