LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA.
Charlie Beljan was worried about keeping his PGA Tour card when he showed up at Disney for the final tournament of the year. That changed Friday over five frightening hours when he felt a shortness of breath and his heart racing, and told his caddie that he thought he was going to die.
His chest heaved. He called for paramedics at the turn and was told his blood pressure was not good. He sat in the middle of the fairway to rest and kneeled on the green to try to steady himself.
In one of the most remarkable rounds of the year, the 28-year-old rookie fought through it for an 8-under 64 to take a three-shot lead.
Moments after signing his card, Beljan was loaded onto a stretcher. His eyes were closed, his head tilted back — still wearing his visor — and his arms were folded across his stomach as paramedics loaded him into an ambulance parked beyond the 18th green at the Palm Course.
“I think he was scared,” said his caddie, Rick Adcox. “He kept saying he thought he was going to die. He just had that feeling. I don’t know why. But it was spooky.”
A few hours later, his agent sent a text to PGA Tour officials from Celebration Hospital that Beljan was waiting on tests, feeling better and hopeful of being discharged from the hospital Friday evening, though that was not certain.
Beljan was in the lead for the first time after any round going into the weekend at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. It could not have come at a better time because he is No. 139 on the money list, and only the top 125 keep their full cards for 2013.
And yet the surreal day ended with Beljan not even sure he would be able to play on the weekend.
The tour said Beljan complained of an elevated heart rate, shortness of breath and heart palpitations. Adcox said Beljan told him of numbness in his arms and he felt like he was going to faint.
“I thought they were going to stop him on 10 when they told him what the blood pressure was,” he said. “He just said, ‘I’m going to keep going until either I pass out or they take me off.’ I kept saying, ‘It doesn’t matter to me. It’s only a golf tournament. You’ve got many more.’ ”