If anybody thinks golf isn't a crazy game, he or she need look only at Charlie Beljan's win Sunday at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Everybody knows that the 28-year-old felt he might die while he played the second round. His heart was racing, his blood pressure was high, and paramedics followed him, but somehow he still shot eight-under-par 64, signed his scorecard and then was taken by stretcher to the hospital, where he spent the night undergoing tests. Nothing showed up and his symptoms were ascribed to a panic attack.
Now he's a PGA Tour winner. But get this: Beljan played a tournament on the All-American Professional Golf Tour the week before he won his first PGA Tour event. The 54-hole tournament was played Oct. 29-31 in Tempe, Ariz., but Beljan played only 36 holes because he shot 76-68 to miss the cut by five shots. Abbottsford, B.C.'s Nick Taylor shot the same score to also miss the cut. He and Beljan were in the featured group for both rounds. Taylor is entered in the second stage of PGA Tour qualifying school Nov. 14-17 at the Bear Creek Country Club in Murrieta, Calif.
As it turns out, Will Cumberland, who is from and lives much of the year in London, Ont., started and runs the All-American Professional Golf Tour. I learned this when Chris Goodwin, one of the two visionaries behind the Redtail Golf Course in St. Thomas, Ont., called me while Beljan was playing his final round Sunday en route to his win. Goodwin told me about Cumberland. Goodwin's son Russell and Cumberland are close friends. They went to high school together.
"Beljan has been a member of our tour in years past," Cumberland told me Monday. "Two weeks ago it was kind of a unique situation. He had a week off [from the PGA Tour]. He's a local guy and with a seven-week-old baby I think more than anything I think he wanted just to get out and play some golf and stay competitive."
Cumberland attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., where he played on the golf team. He then turned pro and played some golf on the Great Lakes Tour in southern Ontario, which has been a good spot for young pros to gain tournament experience. Goodwin told me that Cumberland wanted to start a mini-tour, and that he wanted the tournaments to be based around Scottsdale.
The 2012-2013 schedule of 12 events started with the tournament where Beljan missed the cut. Vancouver's Richard Lee won the tournament, shooting 68-67-61 - yes, 61 - to win by five shots and take away the $12,500 first prize. He and Taylor are by no means the only Canadians to play the All-American Tour. Adam Hadwin and Andrew Parr, among many other Canadians, have also played its tournaments.
"We get a lot of guys off the Canadian Tour (now PGA Tour Canada)," Cumberland said. Players who are getting ready for various stages of PGA Tour qualifying school and also players who aren't in any of the stages enter the All-American events. A member playing this week's tournament in Rio Verde, Ariz. pays an entry free of $820. A non-member entry fee is $1,120.00.
Cumberland goes back and forth between Phoenix and Toronto. The All-American Tour runs for about five months, and he spends about three of those in Phoenix. He's in Toronto the rest of the year. He has ambitions besides conducting a mini-tour that pays pretty good money for its players, who of course are effectively playing for their own money drawn from entry fees.
"I'm trying to start some restaurants in Toronto," Cumberland said. "It's all still in the initiation stages."
The restaurant chain in which Cumberland and his business associates are involved is called Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, which is based in Maryville, Tenn. While he works at moving this venture forward, he can feel good that his All-American Professional Golf Tour was a springboard of sorts for Beljan to earn his first PGA Tour event.
Sure, he missed the cut on the mini-tour, but he won the next week on the big tour. Does that make sense? You tell me. But I do like the Canadian connection.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round's on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein