Ballyliffin’s Old Links was the real winner as just five players broke par in the opening round of the Irish Seniors Open.

American Alan Tapie birdied the par-five 18th for a four under par 67 and a two-stroke lead over Italy’s Giuseppe Cali and Argentina’s Luis Carbonetti.

But while Argentina’s Alfonso Barrera and England’s Gordon J Brand carded rounds of 70 to share fourth place on one-under it was New Zealander Bob Charles who grabbed all the limelight when he shot a level par 71 to beat his age by a shot.

The elegant left-hander finished the day in an 11-man group that included Des Smyth, Sam Torrance and defending champion Costantino Rocca on a day when Sandy Lyle struggled to a two-over par 73 and Ian Woosnam limped home in 76 with just one birdie on his card.

Asked the secret of his success, Charles beamed: “Moderation is my motto. I don’t go to excess on anything. A little bit of this and a little bit of that.

“I have a glass of white and a glass of red in the evenings, sometimes I have two glasses of red. I drink wine and water, nothing else. I think tea and coffee are more poisonous than anything else.”

Leader Tapie had five birdies and just one bogey in his 67 that featured some strong play off the tee.

“This course is about as linksy as you can get,” the 59-year old explained. “You get all different lies on the fairways and it’s a good test. You’ll be lucky to go all three days and not find any trouble out here.”

While Smyth played the back nine in two under for his 71, Torrance had to finish birdie-birdie to match him while defending champion Rocca needed an closing eagle three, hitting a glorious three wood to six feet at 580-yard 18th.

Rocca said: “It’s not easy out there with the wind but I like this links course. When you hit it well out there you can make a good connection with the ball.”

Denis O’Sullivan is the next best of the Irish after a one-over par 72 with Liam Higgins a shot back on 73 on a day when a stiff west wind and squally showers made life difficult for the 75-man field.

Amateur Enda McMenamin failed to make a birdie but he had just one bogey and a double bogey in a 74 that left him tied for 39th place with fellow Ulstermen Peter O’Hagan and Eddie Polland on three-over par.

Former Walker Cup and Ireland great Garth McGimpsey birdied the last for a 75, but echoed the feelings of many when he explained: “I hit some good tee shots and finished just off the fairways. You feel a bit aggrieved as you’ve hit the middle of the fairway and it’s kicked off left or right but that’s the nature of links golf and in particular this place. It is quite humpy and hilly.”

Irish Seniors Open (in association with Failte Ireland and Allied Irish Bank)

Ballyliffin GC, Old Links (Par 71)

67 A Tapie (USA) ;

69 G Cali (Ita) ; L Carbonetti (Arg) ;

70 G Brand (Eng) ; A Barrera (Arg) ;

71 B Charles (Nzl) ; M Piñero (Esp) ; D Good (Aus) ; J Quiros (Esp) ; S Torrance (Sco) ; C Rocca (Ita) ; N Job (Eng) ; K Tomori (Jpn) ; S Owen (Nzl) ; B Longmuir (Sco) ; D Smyth (Irl) ;

72 J Bland (RSA) ; A Sowa (Arg) ; B Cameron (Eng) ; J Chillas (Sco) ; D Merriman (Aus) ; T Charnley (Eng) ; D Russell (Eng) ; D O'Sullivan (Irl) ;

73 L Higgins (Irl) ; B Heuchan (Can) ; J Hoskison (Eng) ; D Cambridge (Jam) ; S Lyle (Sco) ; A Garrido (Esp) ; E Rodriguez (Esp) ; T Rastall (Eng) ; B Lincoln (RSA) ; A Murray (Eng) ; J Rhodes (Eng) ; T Giedeon (Ger) ; R Drummond (Sco) ; J Sallat (Fra) ;

74 P O'Hagan (Irl) ; B Larratt (Eng) ; H Carbonetti (Arg) ; A Franco (Par) ; K Spurgeon (Eng) ; E Polland (Nir) ; T Johnstone (Zim) ; T Allen (Eng) ; S Ginn (Aus) ; P Dugeny (Fra) ; J Rivero (Esp) ; E McMenamin (am) (Irl) ;

75 T Gale (Aus) ; G Encina (Chi) ; A Fernandez (Chi) ; S Ebihara (Jpn) ; M Poxon (Eng) ; C Mason (Eng) ; G McGimpsey (am) (Nir) ;

76 J Heggarty (Nir) ; J Hall (Eng) ; D Hospital (Esp) ; T Price (Wal) ; I Woosnam (Wal) ;

77 B Boyd (USA) ; M Miller (Sco) ; J Benda (USA) ; E Darcy (Irl) ; M Bembridge (Eng) ; P Leonard (Nir) ; P Teravainen (USA) ; V Smyth (am) (Irl) ;

78 P Oakley (USA) ; J Bruner (USA) ;

80 I Mosey (Eng) ; M Gray (Sco) ;

83 G Hopkins (USA)