England’s Roger Chapman grabbed the first round lead at the 73rd Senior PGA Championship Thursday at Harbor Shores with a 3-under 68. (Daily News Photo/AMELIO RODRIGUEZ)

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England’s Chapman grabs lead

Published 11:14pm Thursday, May 24, 2012

BENTON HARBOR — Not many people had heard of England’s Roger Chapman before the opening round of the 73rd Senior PGA Championship at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores Thursday.

After shooting an opening round 3-under par 68 to be the leader in the clubhouse, people are getting to know him.

Chapman, a regular on the European Senior Tour, had five birdies, 11 pars and two bogeys to take the early lead. He hit all 13 fairways and 16 out of 18 greens in regulation.

“I played very nicely,” Chapman said. “As you say, I drove the ball very well, didn’t miss a fairway. I hit 16 greens I think. So the iron play was good as well.

“It was a solid round. Surprisingly, really because we have only played one event in Europe this year, so this is probably my fourth real competitive round this year.”

Chapman’s 68 is the highest first round leading score since 2008. Jay Haas shot a 1-under 69 at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.

John Cook of Orlando, Fla., also played well considering the windy conditions and finished with a 2-under 69. Steve Pate, J.L. Lewis, Jeff Sluman, Haas, David Frost and Jim Carter all finished with 70s to trail Chapman by two strokes.

The golfers who were set to tee off in the afternoon faced an uphill battle as the wind was expected to gust to up to 30 mph.

“It was really starting to pick up about the sixth and seventh,” Chapman said of the windy conditions. “That’s when we noticed it. I think it’s really difficult because of the wind, and the greens are quite firm, so it’s very difficult to actually get the ball very close.

“So you might hit a good shot in and it might just go with the wind a bit and go 25, 30 feet past. And then with the slopes on the greens that it makes the putting quite tricky as well.”

The opening round may have been a bit tougher than some would have thought as only eight golfers finished under par on the day. All eight of those players teed off in the morning.

John Ross had the only eagle of the first round as he used a 54-degree sand wedge to make a two on the par four 12th hole.

Andy North became the latest player to withdraw from the championship. North, who shot 76 Thursday, withdrew due to back issues.

Golfers were back on the course Friday at 7:30 a.m.

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