Golf: Chapman prospers after lucky landing: Townsend leads Madeira Open

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ROGER CHAPMAN, who fell out of a tree seven weeks ago and feared he might never walk again, is one stroke off the lead in the Madeira Island Open after the opening day of the new European season.

The 34-year-old former English amateur champion, who has been trying to win a tour title since 1981, began the tournament in Santo da Serra with a four-under-par score of 68. 'I really want to enjoy myself this year,' Chapman said. 'I realise I might not be playing.'

Chapman was playing with his six-year-old son in woods near their Bracknell home when the accident occurred. The fall was only 12 feet, but he could not get up and, rather than risk further injury, lay motionless for 70 minutes until an ambulance arrived. 'While I was there my son said to me: 'I don't want to see you in a wheelchair, Daddy.' I was taken to hospital but thankfully I hadn't broken anything. It's changed my attitude on the course and just a couple of weeks after it happened I went to Dubai and won a pro-am. I'm really excited about playing.'

After an 82-minute delay for low cloud, Chapman, five times a runner-up, opened with a birdie and then had four more in six holes around the turn.

Jay Townsend, of the United States, is the leader in the clubhouse following an eight-birdie 67, although Canada's Danny Mijovic was also five under par after 12 holes when bad light forced play to be abandoned.

Mijovic was one of 31 players still out on the course when darkness descended. Howard Clark, of Britain, is four under alongside Chapman, with four holes to finish today.

Another Briton, Jamie Spence, did not even reach the first tee; he withdrew before the start of play with a stomach virus.

MADEIRA ISLAND OPEN (Santo da Serra) Leading first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 67 J Townsend (US). 68 R Chapman. 69 P Eales, M Gronberg (Swe), R Alvarez (Arg), P Hedblom (Swe), D Borrego (Sp), N Godin. 70 S Van Vuuren (SA), P Mayo, P Broadhurst, M Lanner (Swe), M Piltz (Fin), T Price (Aus), S Struver (Ger), J Hall, R Lee. 71 S Bottomley, O Nordberg (Swe), J-M Carriles (Sp), D Curry, G J Brand, R Berhorst (Ger), G Hjerstedt (Swe), S Richardson. 72 H P Thul (Ger), G Manson, F Larsson (Swe), S Watson, S McAllister, L Westwood, A Forsbrand (Swe), A Sorensen (Den), C Brooks, A Cejka (Ger), A Lebouc (Fr), P Price, A Sherborne. 73 M Davis, M Nichols, P Affleck, G Cali (It), A Hunter. (Play called off due to bad light with 31 players still to complete first round).