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Jacobsen hadn't won on tour since 1995

CROMWELL, Conn. -- Peter Jacobsen wasn't just another face in the field at the Greater Hartford Open. Early on, he was known as the guy who handled Suzy Whaley's publicity.

Whaley made history this week by becoming the first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to play in a PGA event as a qualifier.

On Sunday, Jacobsen put his name in the record books as well by winning the final GHO with a 3-under-par 67. The tournament becomes the Buick Championship next year.

It was the first win in eight years for the 49-year-old tour veteran.

"I believe things happen for a reason," he said. "With Suzy qualifying, it worked for me. I was so impressed with her game and her demeanor, her smile and everything about her. It was kind of a good-feeling week all around for me."

Was it ever.

Jacobsen, who also won the tournament in 1984, had a share of the lead for all four rounds and led by one stroke after 54 holes.

The thousands lining the hills along No. 18 cheered long and loud as Jacobsen made his way up the fairway. The final round of the final GHO drew more than 70,000 fans to the TPC at River Highlands.

Jacobsen finished 14 under for the tournament with a 266, two strokes better than playing partner Chris Riley.

"He didn't make a mistake," Riley said. "He hit it solid, drove it solid, putted it solid and made all of his 5-footers."

As Jacobsen's final putt dropped, his 21-year-old daughter Kristen ran onto the green and into his arms.

She was a toddler the last time he won here. His $720,000 payday Sunday was 10 times bigger than it was 19 years ago.

"When I was 30 years old, I thought I should have won every week," he said. "You think you're going to do it again and again. It doesn't happen that way. I think it makes this victory that much sweeter. I think I'll appreciate it a lot more."

Jacobsen is eligible for the Champions Tour next year. His win Sunday adds to the list of over-40 guys who have been beating much younger fields the past few weeks. Kenny Perry, who turns 43 next month, has won three of his last six tournaments. Craig Stadler won the B.C. Open last week at the age of 50.

"I never think of my age when I tee it up out there," Jacobsen said. "From an experience standpoint, yes, I felt the last nine holes if I was near the lead I would have a good chance because a victory is not going to change my life. If you win your first or second tournament, especially if you are in your 20s, it will change your life."

Jacobsen was the sentimental favorite as the tournament unfolded. It opened with the much-heralded appearance of Whaley, a local teaching pro. When she bowed out Friday at 13 over, she followed Jacobsen -- whose production company handled her publicity the past seven months.

Todd Fischer (65) finished third with an 11 under. Perry and Craig Barlow both shot 69 to finish four strokes back.

Jacobsen played a sure and steady round in windy conditions, scrambling to save critical pars. His four-birdie round included one bogey when he missed a 3-footer for par on the No. 5 par 3.

Jovial and relaxed for 18 holes, Jacobsen bantered with the crowd, shaking hands as he walked to the tees. He waited for a butterfly to flit off his line on No. 3, explaining to the crowd, "I don't want to hurt the butterfly."

He was unflappable.

When a young boy sped by on a dirt bike along railroad tracks that lined the No. 14 fairway, Jacobsen took it in stride, pumping his fist in the air as if to say "way to go."

Riley was one stroke back at the start of the day but quickly got in trouble, hitting his first tee shot out of bounds. He would hit another out of bounds later in the round for two more penalty strokes.

"You just can't hit two balls out of bounds on Sunday and win an event," Riley said. "You know how the crowds are here in Hartford. They're just huge. Maybe I got a little caught up in the moment."

Riley played himself back into contention with an eagle on the 296-yard No. 15 to pull within two strokes at 11 under.

Jacobsen calmly responded with a birdie on No. 17, landing his approach four feet from the cup and three feet inside Riley's putt on the par-4 signature water hole.

"(Riley) hit it in there close, and I immediately thought, 'Yes, I can do that, too. I'm going to knock it right inside him,'" Jacobsen said.

He then proceeded safely back to the winner's circle for the first time since 1995.

Kristen Jacobsen had never seen her father win. A senior at New York University, she arrived at the course Sunday morning.

"I came in by bus," she said. "but we're going home in a limo."