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Haas, partner rally late for pro-am victory

Published Feb. 27, 2006

Fred Paglia, a Kraft Foods sales and marketing man from Chicago, lived a dream Sunday.

Paglia and Champions Tour pro Jay Haas erased a three-stroke deficit on the back nine and won the team title.

In the process, Paglia, who had never won a sports title in his life to speak of, knocked off an amateur who has a Stanley Cup championship ring, Lightning president Ron Campbell.

Campbell and pro partner John Jacobs looked like a shoo-in after the first nine holes. But they faltered as Paglia and Haas came on strong, finishing tied at 186 and earning the title by virtue of a better back nine, 31-34.

Paglia, who played soccer as a youngster, took up golf 15 years ago as a hobby but never enjoyed the spotlight like this.

"I haven't experienced anything that would match this," said Paglia, who has a 10 handicap. "I'm really humbled by it. I thought they had a lead that was insurmountable."

"We got off to a great start," Haas said. "Fred birdied No. 10 right out of the blocks and that got us going. He was the whole team."

Campbell, an 11 handicap, found the wind problematic.

"When you're hitting good shots, the wind doesn't bother you," he said. "And all of a sudden, the wind was a little more troublesome on the back side. But it was still a beautiful day, and we had a lot of fun and hit some good shots."

Was he more nervous Sunday or Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final?

"Oh, no question," he said. "Game 7."

COOLING OFF: Loren Roberts was a man on fire before the pro-am, winning the first three tournaments on the 2006 Champions Tour. But Roberts - hoping to be the first since Chi Chi Rodriguez in '87 to win four straight Champions Tour events - couldn't get in the groove.

He shot 207, five behind winner Jerry Pate.

"I just didn't quite have it this week," he said. "I didn't make a lot of putts like I've been making. All good things come to an end, so I'll just try to start anew."

OFF THE PACE: Mark McNulty began the day tied for first with Mark Jamesand Hale Irwin but faded fast on the back nine. He shot 2-over 73, six off the lead with 208.

"It just happens," he said. "I wasn't comfortable. You never know."

Was the cool, windy weather a factor?

"I'll normally thrive on days like (Sunday)," he said. "But you can't always do it. That's the way golf is."

Meanwhile, James, Irwin and Morris Hatalsky finished tied for second at 203, earning about $117,866 each (to Pate's $240,000). Hatalsky posted the day's best score, 7-under 64. He missed a birdie on the final hole that would have tied Pate.

"It would have been better if I'd have made that last putt," he said. "It was a great day of golf. I got myself in position (and) had a few chances. And as far as the last putt missing it, I read it right. I just happened to come out of it. I just pushed it off."

THEISMANN PRIMED: Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, a veteran commentator of ESPN's Sunday night NFL telecasts, was deluged by autograph-seekers after teaming with Larry Nelson for 195. Theismann said he can't wait for his new job on Monday Night Football with Mike Tirico and Tony Kornheiser.

"I am thrilled beyond belief. My career has basically been defined by Monday night, obviously," said Theismann, whose career ended with a broken leg on MNF against the Giants in 1985.

"So it's really come full circle for me, and I'm really looking forward to being with Mike and Tony. It's going to be real different. We have no idea what it's going to look like, and I think that's going to be part of the fun of Monday Night Football."

MISCELLANY: Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks had a nice pro-am, finishing six shots back at 192 with pro Des Smyth. "Playing golf three straight days, I got a little tired there in one stretch," he said. "But I had fun. Hopefully, I can come back out (and) make the cut again next year." The field averaged 71.956 for the 54 holes, nearly the same as last year's 71.932 over 36 holes. The most difficult hole was the par-4 No. 15, with an average score of 4.307. The easiest was the par-5 No. 12 at 4.689. There were 10 eagles and 101 birdies.

- DAVE SCHEIBER, Times staff writer