Beljan learning to deal with panic attacks

By Jason SobelJanuary 3, 2013, 5:33 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Charlie Beljan leans back in the wicker chair, a drink in his right hand serving as much for refreshment as a prop, something to keep him occupied while pouring his heart out. A gentle breeze blows through the air. Behind him, not far off in the distance are, in sequential order, a pool, palm trees, a beach and, finally, the Pacific Ocean. Wearing a white short-sleeve button-down, Bermuda shorts and sandals, he is the very picture of relaxation.

It is exactly 4,706 miles from Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to this idyllic spot on Maui, but for Beljan the journey has been so much longer. His victory at Disney World – of all places for such a story – wavered between improbable and impossible. Stricken by vicious panic attacks that Friday, his heart felt like it was going to jump through his skin. He thought he might die right there. He sat down in fairways, was whisked away by an ambulance and returned the next day, only to have the panic attacks return as well.

Hyundai TOC: Articles, videos and photos

Any other week, Beljan just would've quit. Would've gotten himself healthy and tried again later. But this was his last chance at keeping a PGA Tour card, at providing a better life for his wife and their 7-week-old son. And so between heart palpitations, he kept playing and kept hitting great shots and kept making putts and now here he is, seven weeks later, a champion sipping a drink on a wicker chair by the ocean.

If there is a clear line of demarcation that denotes making it as a professional golfer, it lies right here. This week Beljan will compete in a no-cut, guaranteed-money tournament, the proverbial dream come true after battling on the mini-tour circuit for so many years.

That doesn’t underlie the fact that he is still a work in progress. If Disney told the story of the golfer who overcame physical and mental anguish to win its tournament, the credits would roll as Beljan held the trophy aloft in one hand and cradled his young son in the other. Life doesn’t work that way, though.

After winning, he went home to Scottsdale, Ariz., and answered every phone call. His usual 37 minutes per month exploded to beyond his coverage plan, resulting in a $680 bill. He bought a car, but traded in two others to help offset the cost. He also bought a bus to travel between tournaments with his young family.

It was all the kind of stuff golfers do after their first victory. Then finally, after about a week, he played golf again. And the panic attacks returned.

“I was walking my home course and on the eighth hole, man, all of a sudden it just hit me,” he explains. “I freaked out a little bit. A hole later, I was talking to my buddies and it just disappeared. We finished the round and I haven’t had any since then. But it was scary. I was like, ‘This isn’t going away. What am I going to have to do?’”

What he did was seek help. Doctors at the hospital in Florida had assured him that there was nothing wrong physically, that despite feeling like his heart was racing way too fast, it was perfectly normal. So he explored other avenues to curb the attacks.

Eating is a big part of it. Not just nutritious eating, but any kind. Fuel for his system, he calls it. Something that could have prevented the initial issues long ago.

“I hate food. I hate to eat,” he says. “The day that happened to me, come my tee time at 1:00, it had been like 20 hours since I’d eaten anything. I just don’t like to eat. But then all of a sudden, you start to spasm and one thing leads to another.”

So he’s eating now, which may sound only logical, but never was before. It’s been like giving glasses to a man who could never properly see. “Now that I have the proper fuel for my body,” he maintains, “I feel great.”

He’s taking medication, too. Beljan is now on doctor-prescribed Xanax, which helps him “to chill out a little bit.” Once he cleared the drug with the PGA Tour and found that it was acceptable under the current policy, he started taking it regularly.

“I think it’s helped a little bit,” he says. “[Tuesday] I forgot to take it and the first four or five holes, I was like, I don’t want to be here. I want to get out of here. I was just moving a million miles an hour.”

There’s probably some advice his psychiatrist would offer in that situation. Yes, Beljan has started seeing a psychiatrist, just a couple of times so far. He is the rare athlete – hell, the rare human – who not only understands his flaws and seeks treatment, but isn’t afraid to let people know about it.

“I’m just as open with him as anybody,” he says of the two sessions. “He gave me a couple of different hints. Luckily I haven’t had to use any of that stuff yet, but it was nice to get it out there, talk about it and have somebody tell me that I’m not absolutely a lunatic. That’s what I’ve learned – a lot of people suffer from this. I couldn’t imagine going through this on a daily basis.”

After being rushed to the hospital after his Friday round at Disney, Beljan was worried that others would think he was exaggerating his issues. Or even worse, faking them. Like most people who suffer from panic attacks, he assumed that they weren’t normal, that he would be labeled as something of a freak for breaking down like that, especially in such a public spotlight.

Since then, he’s come to understand that it’s a common affliction. Not just from the psychiatrist or from reading up on it, but from those who have struggled with the same problems, albeit without the attention he received.

“The mail that I’ve gotten, people saying, ‘You were such an inspiration, I fight these every day,’ that’s what’s been really cool,” he explains. “To have all these people say they fight these on a daily basis and it was cool to see mine in the public eye, that’s an inspiration to me. It’s an inspiration to bring that to the surface and make other people aware of it.”

With that, Beljan sits back in the wicker chair and takes a measured sip from his drink. He casually looks over his shoulder and notices the Pacific Ocean once more. A faint smile subconsciously emerges on his lips.

The view isn’t just a reminder of where he is. It’s a reminder of where he’s been and where he wants to remain.

Getty Images

Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.


A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

Getty Images

Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Tour.

Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”

Getty Images

5 thoughts from NCAA Women's Championship Day 2

By Ryan LavnerMay 19, 2018, 11:35 pm

The field is almost halfway through stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Here are some thoughts on the first two days at Karsten Creek:

1. UCLA is on a mission. Just a year ago, the Bruins were headed home from regionals after becoming the first No. 1 seed that failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament. This year, with the core of the team still mostly intact, the Bruins have opened up a five-shot lead on top-ranked Alabama and a comfortable 16-shot cushion over Southern Cal in third place. On one of the most difficult college courses in the country, UCLA has received contributions from all four of its usual counters – standout Lilia Vu shot 68 on Saturday, while Mariel Galdiano posted a 69. Freshman Patty Tavatanakit and junior Bethany Wu also broke par. This is a strong, deep lineup that will pose issues for teams not just in stroke-play qualifying, but also the head-to-head, match-play bracket.

2. What happened to Arkansas? Riding high off their first SEC Championship and a dominant regional performance, the Razorbacks were considered one of the top threats to win the national title. But entering Sunday’s third round of stroke play, they need to hold it together just to ensure they make the top-15 cut. Arkansas is 32 over par through two rounds. The Razorbacks had shot in the 300s just once this season in the play-five, count-four format. Here at Karsten Creek, they’ve now done so in consecutive rounds.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

3. The Player of the Year race is heating up. With a decent showing at nationals, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi should have been able to wrap up the Annika Award, given annually to the top player in the country. She has six individual titles, plays a difficult schedule and is well-liked among her peers. But through two rounds she’s a whopping 15 over par while spraying it all over the map. If the Razorbacks don’t survive the 54-hole cut, neither will Fassi. That’d open the door for another player to steal the votes, whether it’s UCLA’s Vu or Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s a lot still to be decided.

4. Stanford has steadied itself. One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 was the horrendous start by the Cardinal, one of just two teams to advance to match play each of the three years it’s been used to determine a national champion. They were 19 over for their first nine holes Friday, but instead of a blowup round that cost them a shot at the title, they’ve found a way to hang tough. Stanford has been just 4 over par over its last 27 holes. Andrea Lee made only one bogey during her second-round 69, Albane Valenzuela eagled the 18th hole for a 73 and senior leader Shannon Aubert – who has been a part of each postseason push – carded a 74. And so, even with its early struggles, coach Anne Walker once again has Stanford in position to reach match play.

5. Karsten Creek is identifying the best teams. The top teams in the country want a difficult host venue for NCAAs – it helps separate the field and draws an unmistakable line between the contenders and pretenders. Only one team (UCLA) is under par after 36 holes. Fewer than a dozen players are under par individually. The dearth of low scores might not be the greatest advertisement for how talented these players are, but the cream has still risen to the top so far: Five top-10 teams currently sit inside the top 7 on the leaderboard (and that doesn’t even include last year’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern). This is all any coach wants, even if the scores aren’t pretty.

Quick hits: Cheyenne Knight, part of Alabama’s vaunted 1-2-3 punch along with Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, shot rounds of 70-69 to figure in the mix for individual honors. The junior will turn pro after nationals. …  Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole Saturday en route to a 68 that tied the low round of the day. She’s at 5-under 139, same as Knight. ... Defending champion Arizona State, which lost star Linnea Strom to the pro ranks at the halfway point of the season, is 35 over par after two rounds. … Play was delayed for nearly an hour and a half Saturday because of inclement weather.

Getty Images

Wise (21) makes Leishman (34) feel a little old

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 10:55 pm

DALLAS – With the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson likely to take on a match-play feel, Marc Leishman likes his chances to close out another win – even if his opponent makes him feel a little old.

Leishman, 34, shares the lead at Trinity Forest Golf Club with 21-year-old Aaron Wise, who was the youngest player to make the cut at the tournament’s new venue. The two men will start the final round at 17 under, four shots clear of their next-closest pursuers.

Leishman played the third round alongside Wise and Brian Gay, and he originally didn’t realize just how fresh-faced his fellow co-leader is.

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

“He’s a solid player for, I heard this morning he’s only 21. I didn’t realize that,” Leishman said. “I guess I was in high school before he was born, so that’s – I don’t know. You hear guys talk about that all the time but I’ve never said that, I think. Yeah, he’s a good player.”

Wise won the 2016 NCAA individual title while at Oregon, and he opted to turn pro after his sophomore season. While he could have been capping his senior season with a return to the NCAAs next week, Wise is pleased with the career choice and remains eager for a chance to close out his first career PGA Tour win against a seasoned veteran.

“I feel like I’m in a great spot for tomorrow,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”