Nov
11
2012
Pressure alert at Disney: Beljan holds 54-hole lead despite Friday’s panic attack
By Stephanie Wei under Fall Series

No joke about the pressure and stress for some players at Disney...

A friend called me on Friday evening and asked if I saw what had happened with Charlie Beljan, who was visibly having difficulty breathing and staying upright as he finished his round.

No, I wasn’t, and I didn’t have access to a TV, but I’d seen a few tweets from concerned and worried players, describing what they were seeing in the second round of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic as “scary” and “distressing.”

Well, what happened?

According to the broadcast, Beljan was coping with an elevated heart rate and shortness of breath, which are associated and thus often incorrectly attributed as symptoms of a heart attack or cardiovascular illnesses. (And if you’ve never had a panic attack or seen someone have one, that’s probably the first thing to cross your mind.)

“He had what appeared to me to be an anxiety/panic attack,” said my friend in a matter-of-fact tone. “But they’re not sure what’s wrong with him. He was put him on a stretcher and taken to the hospital.”

Why are you so sure it was a panic attack? “Because it seemed obvious from what I saw.”

It didn’t seem like it was as clear to others, but that’s probably because most people have never had a full-blown panic attack, or been around someone who is going through the awful and unnerving experience.

Golf Channel had reported Beljan told on-course announcer Jerry Foltz that he thought it was a panic attack, which he’s endured about six times in the last three months, starting with an episode during his flight home from the Reno-Tahoe Open where he passed out.

I replied, “Was he exhibiting similar symptoms that you’ve seen me go through when I’ve had panic attacks?” In other words, you’re familiar with the signs, while most people are not (raise your hand if you have had one or had someone close to you who suffered from them).

/lightbulb

“Yeah.”

In my episodes, I’ve felt like the walls were closing in on me as I’m gasping for air with nowhere to escape (even though I realize it’s just in my head and it’ll eventually subside), which again, is as unpleasant as it sounds (and looks). I think I had a few minor ones in junior golf and college tournaments, but they weren’t as extreme and I just thought it was increased anxiety due to pressure or heat exhaustion.

Beljan, who said he felt like he was going to die during Friday’s round, managed to hold it together — though his symptoms worsened in the last two holes — until he walked off the 18th green. His symptoms started in the morning at the practice range and worsened as the round progressed. He experienced increased blood pressure, shortness of breath, light-headedness and numbness in his arms. He started crying on his way to the scoring tent and then was whisked away in an ambulance to the hospital.

Yep, that’s a panic attack. I’m sure no one wanted to speculate yesterday until it was confirmed, even though it *seemed* obvious.

I can empathize and attest to these attacks as being all-around awful, unimaginable episodes, but once you’ve been through a few and recognize what is happening, you know it’s not life-threatening (even if it feels like it–you have to tell yourself that it’ll stop, but in the moment it seems like an eternity).

Sometimes I won’t realize it’s a panic attack immediately, especially if I haven’t had one in a while, but don’t fret, I quickly recgonize the unpleasant symptoms, such as hyperventilating or feeling suffocated (and you want to take deep breaths because you feel your chest tightening and that’s the intuitive thing to do, but you’re actually supposed to hold your breath).

Having a panic attack in a private setting is already incredibly scary, uncomfortable and upsetting. You feel completely out of control and you’re just trying to find your happy place as you ride it out, but it’s not that easy. It seems like an eternity and a real-life nightmare (even though you keep telling yourself otherwise).

WHEN IS THIS GOING TO END? It seems like a lifetime, but you have no choice but to ride it out.

It’s also embarrassing to have such an epic breakdown in the company of others — however irrational that may be — because you feel like you’re making a scene and no one likes feeling like they’ve lost control of their thoughts and emotions (which usually includes tears triggered by fear mostly).

Add the component of playing in a golf tournament, where you’re basically trapped on the course and you don’t have a safe place to go or people who understand what you’re battling. Even though you feel like you might die, you’re fighting it because it’s an incredibly important event and your livelihood depends on it.

And you keep going because that’s what you do — you don’t quit. In some cases, like it did for Beljan when he shot 64 on Friday, it doesn’t work against the player and might benefit his game because he’s more focused on staying upright than his swing and/or score, nor is he fully aware of what’s going on.

Beljan entered the week No. 139 on the money list and likely needs at least a top-ten finish to move into the top 125 to secure his 2013 card. In other words, he’s playing for his job. Otherwise, while he’d probably have conditional status if he stayed inside the top 150, he’d have to go back to Q-school to regain full status.

So it’s fair to say he’s been a tad stressed, which is one of the numerous triggers for panic attacks. He’s also had quite a bit on his plate in 2012, including several life-altering events. Beljan earned his card at Q-school last December and started his rookie year in January at the Sony Open, his first-career PGA Tour event. The 28-year-old got married in March, dealt with a hand injury, and then, he and his wife welcome their first child about a month ago.

Beljan stayed overnight in the hospital on Friday and only got an hour of sleep. Doctors didn’t necessarily give him thumbs-up to play on Saturday in a pressure situation, but they didn’t adamantly oppose it either. (Again, not life-threatening.)

“I’m feeling better than yesterday, but still not great,” Beljan told reporters on Saturday before teeing off. “Yesterday I honestly feared for my life. It was probably the hardest day of my life.”

Maybe a tad dramatic, but I know it seems like the end of the world at the time, especially if it’s your first full-blown panic attack.

Considering the circumstances, Beljan comported himself very well and shot an impressive one-under 71 to get to 13-under and head into Sunday’s final round with a two-shot lead.

“I showed up this morning, and I was scared,” said Beljan. “I was nervous and kind of embarrassed about the whole show that happened Friday. I didn’t know how I was going to take today, if those feelings were going to come back. There were a lot of unknowns today.”

It’d be one hell of a story if he can hold on tomorrow. Considering the way things have gone on Sundays in the 2012 season, I won’t hold my breath, especially since there are 10 players within three shots of Beljan’s lead and 14 additional players only five strokes back.

The pressure of going into Sunday with the lead and chance to win your first PGA Tour event is incomparable to anything Beljan has ever experienced. Even if he doesn’t close the deal, he just needs to stay inside the top ten to ensure finishing in the top 125 on the money list (not the worst consolation prize considering where he started the week and what he’s been through).

******

Meanwhile, how are the bubble boys doing? Looks like D.J Trahan has another shot at pulling a D.J. Trahan. Last year he drained a 22-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole to bump Bobby Gates out of the No. 125 spot. Once again, Trahan is flirting with keeping his card. Maybe he just enjoys the drama!

Here’s a chart (via PGA Tour Media R3 Notes) of the projected money list after 54 holes of the 2012 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. If the event ended today,

On the Bubble (Players ranked between Nos. 120-130 on the PGA TOUR Money List):

Player

Position In CMNHC After Round 3

Position On Money List Coming Into This Week

Projected Position On Final 2012 Money List

James Driscoll

MC

120/$687,388

123

Boo Weekley

T25

121/$683,259

121

Jeff Maggert

T32

122/$671,494

122

Kevin Chappell

T19

123/$623,775

124

Rod Pampling

MC

124/$620,893

127

Billy Mayfair

MC

125/$619,961

128

Trevor Immelman*

MC

126/$617,296

129

Gary Christian

MC

127/$616,457

130

Alexandre Rocha

T77

128/$605,117

131

Bill Lunde

MC

129/$593,598

134

D.J. Trahan

T25

130/$587,407

126

* already exempt for 2013