It is also known as an anxiety attack, which sounds, to the uninitiated, somehow a little less terrifying, when in fact . . . well, I once asked an acquaintance who suffered from panic attacks if they could be, uh, you know, like, faked, um . . . maybe a little?
The look he gave me would have boiled water.
Which brings us to The Ballad of Charlie Beljan and the most remarkable four rounds of golf ever played.
Charlie was a winless pro who had scuffed and struggled to make it on the PGA Tour, which is a whole lot harder than it seems. He is a dream chaser, and a week ago he went to the Tour's last tournament of the season, the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and he was desperate. Charlie ranked No. 139 on the money-winning list. To qualify for a full card for next year, he needed to finish No. 125.
And this was the last chance.
That in itself is enough to set the frayed nerves jangling. But Charlie also had only recently gotten married. And then had a first born (a son). And a worrisome habit of panic attacks, starting on a flight home from a tournament when he fainted and was taken to a hospital. The cause was undiagnosed.
"Physically, everything is wonderful," he said. "It's that little space between the ears that I've got to work on."
By his reckoning, he had endured half a dozen attacks when he teed it up at Lake Buena Vista, the specter of fainting dead away a shadow he couldn't shake.
He opened with a 68, pulverizing the par-5s with his seismic driver. Par is 72.
In the second round, he was visited by those tremors and the sense of foreboding. With paramedics as part of his gallery, not knowing if his next shot was going to be his last, he shot a resolute 64. Then he signed his card and was strapped on a gurney, put in an ambulance, and taken to the hospital.
There, he spent the night, monitored.
With his golf shoes still on.
Halfway through the tournament there he was - not just the leader in the clubhouse but the leader in the emergency room as well.
He was two rounds away from the end of the rainbow. But would he play the third round? Should he play?
The doctors cleared him. Sort of.
You're good to go, they told Charlie. Go home, that is. But do please avoid any stressful situations. Ha! Doc, do you know what it is that he does for a living? No stress? How about standing over a 20-foot downhill, side hill, double break putt for birdie and for the win? I'd say it's safe to say that Doc has not had the pleasure.
"The position I'm in, it's kind of hard not to show up," Charlie said.
He held it together in the third round, shooting 71. And the kettle drums thundered away, and it struck an observer that it's surprising these attacks do not strike more often, especially among golfers because their game is the most mental of them all. Anyone for a case of the yips?
Back at Buena Vista, all that was left now was the little matter of putting on the bow.
Here's the lead, Charlie. Do with it what you will.
His response was a 69.
And a 2-stroke win.
And he was more than secure for the year ahead, finishing 63d on the money list.
And, oh yes, a check for $846,000.
And when his clinching 5-foot par putt dropped, he dropped his putter to the side of the green and hoisted his son and said: "This is the greatest feeling ever."
Talk about your Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah moments.