Being distracted on the course?

By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM

As you enter Walt Disney World, there is a sign that says: "Where dreams come true." For PGA TOUR rookie Charlie Beljan, dreams certainly came true this week at The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

Just a few weeks ago, Beljan was considering a trip to the second stage of qschool, but a top-10 finish at The McGladrey Classic moved him into to 139th on the money list and an assured spot in the q-school finals. That reduced pressure helped Beljan fire an opening 68 and into position for a spot in the top 125.

A strange sequence of events on Friday, however, moved the affable 28-year-old from thinking about the tournament — and his quest for his playing privileges — to thinking he was going to die on the course.  
On the driving range before the round, Beljan called for a doctor, complaining of shortness of breath, an elevated heartrate and numbness in his arms. He also complained that he was feeling faint. Despite his obvious distress, he decided to go and play and he managed to put together what was one of the most remarkable rounds of the year. He made two eagles, six birdies and two bogeys for 64 — a score which propelled him into the 36-hole lead.
Not only did the round include a splash of red numbers, it also included a visit with the paramedics on the tenth tee. There, the medical staff advised him that it was his decision to continue. Continue he did, with the mantra being a countdown – “One more hole; one more shot.”

Charlie Beljan’s Friday episode reminded me of the adage: “Beware of the sick golfer,” and it certainly bears a lesson for us all.
Oftentimes when you are feeling under the weather, your mind becomes more engaged with your health misgivings than with the challenges or perils that the golf course presents. As a result you begin to adopt an approach that is less results-driven – just like Charlie Beljan. “Handlebar” Rick Adcox, Beljan’s caddie, admitted that they never even considered the score for the day or the tournament. In fact, they only found out that Beljan was in the lead after the round was complete and he was taken to the hospital for tests and observation.

Now, obviously you can’t only compete when you are ill, but you certainly can find tools to occupy your mind between shots if you struggle with your mind wandering. For example, I have seen a player-caddie relationship where the caddie brings the daily newspaper crossword puzzle to the course and he and the player start doing it on the range and aim to complete it by the end of the round. They consider the clues and try and figure out the answers between shots. Upon their arrival at the each shot they consider the necessary variables, select a club and hit the shot. As soon as the club is back in the bag, they get back to their crossword puzzle.

There are many novel ways to achieve a mindset that is completely engaged in the present-tense and devoid of golf-related strain. Whatever your tool of choice may be, I recommend you use it every time you compete as it will help you to diminish the inevitable golfer’s tendency to make more of the shot and even the round of golf that it really is. Behold, Charlie Beljan and his Friday nightmare … who would have bet that a little mind-numbing and a lot of guts and perseverance would have been the catalyst to him being the newest PGA TOUR champion?

"You swing your best when you have the fewest things to think about." Bobby Jones