Charlie Beljan Wins 76th Arizona Open Championship
by: Southwest Section PGA
GOLD CANYON, Ariz. – August 7, 2019 – Charlie Beljan has played golf at the highest level on the PGA Tour with a victory and a runner-up finish but there was one tournament he always wanted to win – the Arizona Open. The wait is over as Beljan fired a 7-under-par 65 in the final round and outlasted fellow native Arizonans Zach Smith by one stroke and Michael Feagles by two at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club.
“I’ve always wanted to win the Arizona Open being born and raised here in the state,” said Beljan. “There are some great past champions names on the trophy and I’m honored to be able to have my name on it now. It’s something I’m really proud of and couldn’t be happier to get this win.”
Beljan, 34, from Mesa, Ariz., began the final round two shots behind second round leader Smith. With 18 players within five shots of the lead starting the day, Beljan knew he needed to get off to a fast start and keep it going. With birdies on the first three holes and five birdies over his first seven holes, Beljan went from the hunter to the hunted.
“I got off to a dream start today birdying the first three holes,” Beljan said. “Starting two back of the lead you can’t ask for much more than that. After I birdied five of the first seven holes I tried to keep the pedal down. I didn’t want to know what anyone was doing and wanted to just play my own game.”
Smith, 23, from Phoenix, was in the final group, one behind Beljan, and was keeping tabs on what was happening in front of him. He also got off to a good start picking up two shots over his first four holes, including an eagle on the par-5 second hole.
As both players made the turn, Beljan maintained his one stroke lead over Smith, which never got higher than two for the duration of the back nine.
“I was watching the scores and saw that I was one shot behind Charlie pretty much the whole day,” said Smith. “As I was running out of holes I tried to play a little more aggressively but nothing too crazy where I would put myself in real trouble.”
About six groups and an hour ahead of Beljan and Smith was 21-year-old amateur Feagles who began the day at 5-under par for the Championship. The senior-to-be on the men’s golf team at the University of Illinois was tied for 19th and knew he had some work to do if he was going to put himself in contention.
“I was 6-under through 11 holes yesterday and squandered that one away,” said Feagles. “That put a little fuel in my stomach for today and I wanted to come out and shoot a real low one.”
If 9-under-par 63 is a “real low one” then Feagles accomplished his goal. After making the turn with a 5-under-par 31 that included four birdies, a bogey and an eagle, Feagles made consecutive birdies at Nos. 13-15 and had a chance at No. 18 for his second eagle of the day and his career low round.
“I was trying to get to 15-under; that was my mentality and in my head all day,” said Feagles who like Beljan and Smith, was born and raised in Arizona. “I thought 15-under could have a good chance to win or at least get me in a playoff. I had the chip on 18 to get to that and lipped it out unfortunately. I really wanted that one to go because 63 ties my tournament low round so 62 would have been awesome to set a new career low for me.”
Feagles, the 2017 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and three-time All-Big Ten First Team (2017, 2018, 2019), shot up 16 spots on the leaderboard to third place and the waiting game began hoping his 14-under total would be good enough for at least a playoff if Beljan and Smith had a misstep.
Beljan birdied Nos. 13 and 14 and parred the remaining holes coming in for the 65, and after signing his scorecard, headed to No. 18 to watch Smith finish.
After a birdie at No. 13 and pars at Nos. 14-17, Smith knew he needed an eagle on the par-5 18th to match Beljan and force the sudden-death playoff. He hit a great drive down the middle and his approach shot to the fringe at the 18th green. Knowing the chip would have to drop for the eagle, Smith gave it a great run but left the shot just inches short of the hole. He tapped in for birdie and Beljan breathed a sigh of relief as the one title he really wanted was now his.
“It doesn’t matter the level, winning any tournament is great but this one is very special to me being the Arizona Open,” said Beljan. “If it was another state open it would be great but to win my home state open is really something I’ve always wanted to do and I can’t wait to see that trophy in my house and return next year as the defending champion.”
With the victory Beljan becomes only the second person (Jim Carter) in the history of both events to win the Arizona Amateur Championship (2006) and the Arizona Open Championship.
Feagles, who was recently honored by the Golf Coaches Association of America as a PING All-America Honorable Mention, took home Low Amateur honors, finishing third behind Beljan and Smith.
“It was awesome to finally be able to play in the Arizona Open,” said Feagles. “I haven’t been able to play in the past due to the dates and my college schedule but when I saw the dates this year I was super pumped. I remember watching Charlie when I was in high school, knowing he was an Arizona guy and I was cheering for him. To lose to him I’ll look back on one day and see it was pretty cool because he’s such a great player.”
Feagles’ 63 is a record for the final round, which he bested by two strokes. It was also the low round of the 76th Arizona Open Championship.
Smith finished second in his first event as a professional and took home $10,000 for the runner-up finish.
“All things considered, I’m pretty happy with the outcome,” said Smith following the round. “In my first tournament as a pro and with the level of players in the field I’m pleased at what I was able to do this week and where I was able to finish.”
Beljan earned $16,000 for the victory in one of the deepest fields ever to compete in the Arizona Open Championship.
“The level of talent here is legit,” said Beljan. “This week I shot 16-under and 200 total and won by only one shot – and I had to play some great golf just to do that. We had the Low Amateur (Feagles) shoot 63 today so the field top to bottom is very deep. These kids are coming out younger, better and fearless. It was a good week with a lot of great players and I managed to come out on top.”
Past champions Craig Hocknull, 44, from Gilbert, Ariz., tied for sixth and Brian Cooper, 52, from Phoenix, finished tied for ninth.
Long-time Southwest PGA Partner PING is the presenting sponsor of the 76th Arizona Open Championship. Their support helped raise this year’s purse to the highest level since 2008.
About The Arizona Open Championship:
The Arizona Open Championship is a 54-hole, state open golf tournament open to both professional and amateur golfers nationwide. Administered by the Southwest PGA, the Arizona Open and has roots dating back to the inaugural event held in 1937. This historical championship has been held annually since 1953 and boasts an impressive list of past champions including Johnny Bulla, Dale Douglas and Curt Byrum. Place-winners from qualifying events conducted throughout the month of July, along with those players exempt from qualifying, finalized the Championship field of 156 competitors.
About The Southwest Section PGA:
The Southwest Section of the PGA of America is a professional organization serving the men and women golf professionals in Arizona and Southern Nevada who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf. The Southwest PGA is responsible for the administration of competitive golf tournaments, junior golf programs and events, educational opportunities, support programs and growth of the game initiatives. With 1284 members and associate Professionals, the Southwest PGA is the fifth largest of the 41 regional entities or Sections that comprise the PGA of America. For more information about the Southwest PGA, please visit our website and join us on social media at Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.