The Styal, Cheshire clubman was the only player to break par — with a one-under 70 — from 138 starters at the County Sligo course.
There was a three-way tie for second place with the host club’s Barry Anderson, Harry Diamond (Belvoir Park) — close friend of Rory McIlroy — and Richard O’Donovan (Lucan) all shooting 71.
Muskerry’s Niall Gorey found conditions tricky and didn’t appear happy with the slow play either, with each threesome averaging five hours and 25 minutes.
“The time per round was difficult to understand,” the Corkman commented after his difficult opening day.
The Irish International and three-time Munster stroke play champion continued: “I struggled from the back nine onwards. The rain just made it really, really cold.”
Gorey concluded: “I played great on the front nine and turned one-over. I dropped a couple of shots into the wind at 11 and 12 and struggled the last three holes.”
Sligo favourite Anderson — bidding to become the first winner of The West from the host club since 1950 — started excellently to go three under through five before carding his 71.
The 2010 winner of this event, Rory Leonard (Banbridge), also found the going tough and could only post a five-over par 76.