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Wild ride ends in triumph for rookie

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Charlie Beljan felt as if his heart was about to burst out of his chest Sunday at Disney, and he couldn't have felt better.

This wasn't another panic attack gone wild, like the one that sent him to the hospital after the second round. This was the prospect of winning on the PGA Tour for the first time.

Two days after he was wheeled out of the scoring room on a stretcher, the 28-year-old rookie was celebrating on the 18th green as the band played Zippity-Do-Dah. He arrived at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic with his job in jeopardy and left with a two-year exemption.

"Every day I drove underneath that Disney sign coming in here that said, 'Where dreams come true,' and that's just what happened this week," Beljan said after closing with 3-under 69 to finish at 16-under 272 for a two-shot win. "And I'm so grateful and so honored."

Beljan could hardly breathe and his blood pressure spiked during his second round, when paramedics followed him around the back nine. After sleeping briefly in the hospital after a variety of tests, he played Saturday fearing another panic attack. Sunday morning, his head was throbbing and his stomach felt queasy.

Once he got on the golf course, the rest was easy.

Beljan ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch around the turn, twice knocking in putts from around 30 feet, and built a five-shot lead. A double bogey made it close but only until he made birdie on the next hole. He tapped in one last putt, tossed his putter to the side of the green, pumped his fist and hoisted his 7-week-old son.

Robert Garrigus and Matt Every each closed with 68 and tied for second.

LPGA: Cristie Kerr won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara, Mexico, for her first victory in more than two years, and Stacy Lewis tied for fourth to wrap up the player of the year award. Kerr held off Angela Stanford and third-round leader Inbee Park by a stroke, finishing at 16-under 272. Ochoa (70), who retired in 2010, was at 4 under, Seminole's Brittany Lincicome (72) at 6 under and Tampa resident Kristy McPherson (70) at 1 over.

EUROPEAN: Matteo Manassero holed a 12-foot eagle putt to beat Louis Oosthuizen on the third playoff hole at the Singapore Open. Oosthuizen and Manassero both finished at 13-under 271 in regulation. Rory McIlroy finished third at 10 under to clinch the European money title. He is the second golfer, after Luke Donald last year, to win the European and the PGA Tour money titles in the same season.

Wild ride ends in triumph for rookie 11/11/12 [Last modified: Sunday, November 11, 2012 8:21pm]

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