What We Learned: Beljan wins Disney


Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from that week's tournaments and news developments. This week, our writers weigh in on the incredible story of Charlie Beljan, battling his own health even more than the rest of the field, as he hung on to win at Disney and secure his Tour card for next season.

Sometimes even the “Disney-fied” stories that reach the silver screen are dripping with too much schmaltz. The effect is the opposite of reality television – call it unreal imagination, because they’re too far-fetched to be believable. Well, Disney tried to dupe us one more time this weekend. It released a tale of a longtime struggling golfer who reaches the big time, only to repeatedly finish on the wrong end of success. When he finally does get into the lead in his last chance of the season, his heart rate increases, he feels lightheaded and he’s rushed to the hospital immediately afterward. After a night of examination, he returns to the golf course whereupon he remains in the lead, only to wake up the morning of the final round in bad shape once again. He guts it out, though, and in the end – because this is a Disney film, of course – he wins the big tournament and everybody lives happily ever after. It’s a good story, if not overly implausible. There is one major plot twist, though: This may have happened at Disney, but it wasn’t a movie and it was very real. If company execs want the next big blockbuster, they could do worse than procuring “The Charlie Beljan Story,” which took place on their own turf. As far as great stories go, it’s equal parts bizarre, frightening, heartwarming and uplifting. Everything that Disney could ever want in a film. Hold the schmaltz. – Jason Sobel

Some clichés can’t be ignored. Despite a frightening trip to the emergency room with chest pains on Friday following a second-round 64 Charlie Beljan cruised to his first PGA Tour victory at Walt Disney World. As his caddie Rick “Handlebar” Adcox put it, “It was spooky (on Friday); he turned white on one hole and red on the next. I’m never going to forget that.” And we should never forget, beware the injured golfer. – Rex Hoggard

The PGA Tour’s season-ending event can do strange things to players. Last year, bubble boy James Driscoll said he vomited four times before the final round. He blamed some kind of “funky” lobster sandwich. This year, Charlie Beljan starred in the latest Disney drama, as he spent one night in the hospital and fought not just for his professional life – he began the week at No. 139 on the money list, remember – but also his actual life. The fight was compelling, so long as you weren’t a member of his immediate family. Forget Q-School – the most pressure-packed week of the year is the one in which millionaires try to secure playing privileges for the following season. Go figure. – Ryan Lavner

Golf keeps inventing ways to be inscrutable. Sports psychologists get rich trying to teach players how to manage anxiety. Fear and doubt are the great enemies of contenders trying to win. Or so we've always thought.

And then here comes Charlie Beljan, who could not have been full of more fear and doubt this weekend but still managed to win the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. He won despite playing with the fear of death on Friday. He won despite doubting he could make it to the first tee Saturday after spending a night in the hospital. He won Sunday to remind us this game we love may never truly be understood. – Randall Mell

The only thing more difficult than getting to the PGA Tour is staying there. That’s the message that resonated Sunday as I watched Camilo Villegas – a.k.a. Spiderman, a three-time PGA Tour winner and an original member of the bomb-and-gouge crowd – fail to crack the top 125 on the money list at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

He wasn’t the only one. Tour winners Billy Mayfair and Rod Pampling came up short. So did the long-time grinder Jerry Kelly (though his place in the top 25 of the career earnings list gives him a one-year exemption).

Bottom line? What Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy do isn’t the norm on the PGA Tour. It’s difficult to win golf tournaments. It’s a struggle to rack up top 10s. It’s tough staying employed on the PGA Tour. – Damon Hack