Saturday, November 10, 2012
PGA TOUR PLAYS STUPID WITH GOLFER'S LIFE
Anybody who followed college basketball in the early 90's probably has the image
of Hank Gathers dropping dead on the court seared into their memory. Anybody who
had an interest in the NBA during that same period probably recalls the frightening
sight of Reggie Lewis fainting and collapsing on the court during a playoff game.
And there's a good chance they remember how he died two month later after a practice.
Apparently, nobody who works with the PGA Tour remembered those two tragic events.
If they did, or actually cared about the welfare of one of its golfers, they certainly wouldn't
have allowed what happened during the second round of a tournament near Orlando on
Charlie Beljan, a not very well-know rookie golfer on the circuit, played almost the entire
round with chest pain, palpitations, numbness in his arms, and shortness of breath. He
would lay down on the ground in between shots and stoop over and put his hands on his
knees on more than once occasion. Beljan, who is 28-years old, was clearly in distress and
nobody from the PGA Tour stepped in to say, "Hey, man, you have to go to the hospital.
This is just a round of golf. Your life is more important."
Trouble was, Beljan was having the round of his life. He came into the the final event
of the season ranked 138th on the circuit and needed to be in the top 125 to be exempt
for next year. Perhaps, Beljan told officials there was no way that he was coming off
the course because his status as a professional golfer was far more important than his life,
which is quite similar what Hank Gathers, who had dreams of being a first-round draft
pick, was thinking as a star at Loyola-Marymount. He had passed out once during a game,
yet convinced team doctors he felt good enough to keep playing.
Lewis fainted during the first 10 minutes of a playoff game, yet, somehow, team doctors
of the Boston Celtics cleared him to return to action at the start of a second half claiming
that Lewis' condition could've been the result of low blood sugar or the fact he may have
been "too excited". Lewis dropped dead two months later, the result of hypertropic
cardiomyopathy, not low blood sugar or because he was "too excited." Good, Lord.
So on Friday, here's Beljan, who wanted to earn his PGA card for next season, being allowed
to go on with his round despite feeling like "he was going to die", according
to his caddie. Beljan received attention from medics just before teeing off, and then after
the 10th hole where they tested his blood pressure and found that it to be low. Are you
kidding me? Paramedics test his blood pressure after the guy complains of chest pain,
shortnessof breath, and numbness in his arm, and they discover that it's low and actually allow
him to continue? Unreal! And what did PGA Tour officials do about it? Absolutely nothing,
because Beljan, of course, was having the round of his life.
(Insert the tone of Allen Iverson here) We're talking bout a round of golf here. Not about
a guy who clearly has some medical issues going on, but a round of golf. A friggin'
round of golf in a tournament that few people actually care about. Oh, yeah, Beljan somehow
shot an 8-under 64 and is leading the tournament by three shots but he left on a stretcher
and in an ambulance. Is it just me or is this picture just totally screwed up?
What if Beljan dropped dead on the course or died on his way to the hospital? How would
PGA Tour officials be feeling? They see a golfer who is clearly in distress through the
course of five hours and they do nothing? This incident was clearly a distraction to other
golfers on the course. They have to try to make birdies while waiting to see if their playing
partner is going to keel over and need CPR from them. Good grief.
This first thing I did this morning was fire up my computer to check on Beljan and his
health status. I half expected to read, "Golfer dies after shooting the round of his life."
Beljan spent the night in the hospital undergoing more tests. I am praying and hoping
that doctors and PGA Tour officials strap Beljan to the hospital bed and don't allow
him to even think about playing. But I really doubt that'll happen, just like it didn't
happen in the cases of Gathers and Lewis. I just hope that what happened to them
doesn't happen to Beljan. It's just a game, people. Life is far more important than
birdies and bogeys and a tournament that nobody cares about.