Charlie Beljan: Transformation Master

Once again the day didn’t start out to well for Charlie Beljan, but it ended on a high note.

On Friday at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, he had his all too public meltdown; a panic attack that at one point convinced him that he was literally going to die. But after he somehow shot an 8-under 64, an overnight trip to the hospital convinced him that there was nothing physiologically wrong.

And while Saturday wasn’t nearly as bad, he had some of the same feelings and they caused him to bogey two of the first three holes. But a little more centered after that, he birdied four of the next eight and went on to finish at 1-under and with a two-shot lead.

Why should Sunday be any different? He hoped it would be and he seemed to have tamed the feelings of anxiety, but he awoke to a pounding headache and his stomach hurt. It took to the end of the day to see that there might have been a silver lining in that: 

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 [of actually playing].

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.

It wasn’t without a little drama. He flared his tee shot on 13, the easiest hole on the course, into the trees. He had an open shot to the green and flawlessly punched it out. Flawlessly except it went too far and into a bunker on the other side of the green. He played ping pong golf from there and ended up with a surprising double bogey. Strangely, it didn’t bother him:

…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.

And, as if written by a Disney storyteller, his fairytale ending came true: he hung on to his three-shot lead until it didn’t matter, was able to spare a bogey on 18 and won his first PGA Tour tournament by two shots. He shot up from 139 on the Money List to 63, well inside the Top 125. But that was just a statistic; his win also won him the coveted two-year exemption that goes with it.

His post-round interview in the media room turned up two mastery pearls related to two things we talk about regularly here:

  1. How to play golf without mechanical thoughts in your head and,
  2. Personal transformation

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.

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.

This next passage on transformation is critical to success in golf…or anything.

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

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 that’s the key to transformation: believing in your heart that you already are what you seek to become. People in the throes of the transformation process do not wait for evidence. They step fully and completely into the role they seek for themselves knowing that the rest will follow.

I first met Charlie Beljan in late August when his threesome overran our twosome and we let them through.

We were at the Rim Club, a beautiful course that Tom Weiskopf tucked into the nooks and crannies of the perfect mountain property in Payson, Arizona. We first saw him as we looked back from the green of the par-5 6th; when we saw how far he’d hit his drive there was little wonder that he was gaining on us.

They didn’t actually catch us until their approach shots on 7 and we waved them through on the par-3 8th once we reached the green. After the three of them hit, the two of us walked back onto the green to mark our balls. Mine happened to be close to Charlie’s.

He had in tow his brother and a friend who was working to qualify for the Tour. While one of them worked to get on the green, Charlie introduced himself to me and then to my host. Somehow the fact that he was working to save his card came up.

“Where are you on the Money List?” I asked.

“131,” he replied.

“Oh, that’s doable,” I assured him.

“Well, I have a lot of excitement in my life right now. We’re going to have a baby in three weeks so I have a lot on my mind,” he said.

The three of them putted out and headed for their carts.

“Good luck the rest of the year. Play well,” I encouraged him.

“Thanks, I will,” he said.

And off he went to put a stake in the heart of the par-5 9th.

After I got home that evening, I checked the Money List and discovered that Charlie was a little off; he was actually something like 143 on the list.

But unbeknownst to me, a month and a half earlier at the Greenbriar, he came to believe that he was one of the best players in the world…and two months after I met him on the 8th green at the Rim Club…he was.

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