WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Charlie Beljan wants an RV.
As a rookie on the PGA Tour, Beljan, 27, is soaking up and enjoying the experience of playing the world’s best courses with the world’s best players. But there’s that whole travel thing.
Beljan hates it.
Growing up in Phoenix, it was natural for Beljan (pronounced like the waffle) to cut his golf teeth on the Arizona-based Gateway mini-tour. He never had to be more than a few hours from home, and in a lot of cases, he could sleep in his own bed at night.
Not so on the PGA Tour, where players criss-cross the map on a weekly basis.
“The travel has what’s been the worst part of the year, really,” he said following his round at the Greenbrier Classic Friday, where he tied Jonathan Byrd for the clubhouse lead (-8) following the morning groupings. “I would love to have a wonderful weekend and I want to buy an RV. I don’t mind the driving. I don’t care for the airports and the rental cars or hotels. Home is my favorite place.
“One my caddies that I’ve used this year, that’s how he travels. It’s so nice. You have your home, you can go outside and have a barbecue. You don’t have to go find a restaurant or a fast-food joint. You don’t have to worry about plane layovers and all that kind of stuff. Ideally that would be it for me.”
A couple more good days this weekend and Beljan just might be leaving White Sulphur Springs in search of a shiny, new RV.
The 27-year-old fired a 62 – flirting with a 59 through 14 holes on the course that was toughened after Stuart Appleby shot 59 two years ago – that included nine birdies and a mere one bogey on his final hole of the day (No. 9).
It’s rare air for Beljan. He’ll be playing in one of the final groups Saturday with tens of thousands of fans and many TV cameras watching.
Quite a turnaround for a guy whose only experience in events outside of the mini-tour were one Nationwide Tour start and two U.S. Opens. So, in that sense, Beljan is a true rookie.
Many PGA Tour neophytes have at least some experience playing on the Nationwide Tour or on one of the world’s other major tours like the Asian or Sunshine tours. Beljan was starting cold turkey.
And even now, 13 events into his year, he admits he’s still not completely comfortable with the experience.
“Thursday is horrible,” he said. “Doesn’t matter where it is or how much I like or dislike the course. It’s tough going from hitting balls with your buddies to all of a sudden you’re hitting balls next to Tiger and … I was hitting balls on Monday and Tom Watson pops down next to me. I stepped back and I just watched him. That was wonderful, but it is a culture shock.
“It would be like somebody who’s good at communication all of a sudden going in and being asked to run CNN. All of a sudden you’re in an elite class.”
Until two weeks ago, the season had been a struggle for Beljan, who earned his card by finishing T13 at Q School. He made only three cuts in his first 11 tournaments – including two withdrawals – and failed to crack even the top 30 in the cuts he did make.
Two weeks ago at the Travelers Championship, Beljan had what could be his breakthrough. He got out of the gate slowly, shooting a 4-over 39 for his first nine holes (the back nine at TPC River Highlands). He played his final 63 holes 10 under par, including a bogey-free 66 on Sunday.
“I was like, ‘You’re better than this. You know how to do it. We’re just playing golf,’” said Beljan of his start at the Travelers. “It’s just whatever you build up inside you.
“I thought I had to be perfect out here. My game is what got me here, so I figure I’m just going to try to take the same thing out there, and I just have to learn to settle down a little bit.”
The Greenbrier Classic is the beginning of yet another new experience for Beljan. It’s the first of five straight weeks that he’ll be on the road, his longest such stretch since joining the PGA Tour.
His wife, Merisa, joined him on the trip to Greenbrier. She resolutely followed him all 36 holes Thursday and Friday despite the oppressive heat and being in the final trimester of her pregnancy. The couple is expecting their first child, a boy, in early September.
“They say the toughest three things to do in life are deal with marriage, a new job and the birth of a child. I went ahead and did all three in like the last six months.
“Obviously I wanted all my priorities out here, but now there’s more important things than that. But I’m hoping that will kind of take away from that big show I’ve built it up to be out here. We’ll just keep plugging.”
And perhaps spending some time traveling with his growing family in a new RV.
– Chuck Curti