Maria Fassi carded a course-record equalling 9-under-par 63 to hold a one-stroke lead over Lee-Anne Pace after the opening round of the Dubai Moonlight Classic presented by EGA.
Mexican Fassi, 23, carded eight birdies, an eagle and two bogeys in a career-high round, including a run of three straight birdies on holes four to six, followed by another trio of consecutive birdies on holes 13 to 15, and a chip-in eagle on hole 16.
Pace led the field for most of her blemish-free round of 64, which featured an opening birdie on hole four that was quickly followed with twin birdies on 8 and 9, an eagle on 10.
The South African further birdied holes 14, 16 and 18 and was only usurped at the leaderboard summit by Fassi’s closing eagle at Emirates Golf Club.
Germany’s Olivia Cowan, carded a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 to sit one stroke ahead of Sweden’s Jessica Karlsson in third.
“It was pretty flawless today out there,” Fassi said. “It was my first time playing in the dark but it was awesome. I enjoyed it a lot and the course was great.
“Shooting 63 is a personal best; it’s awesome to tie the course record on the Faldo Course, it’s a pretty big deal in my opinion. Now I’ve tied it, I want to beat the course record, but the reality is I just have to keep doing what I did today.”
Pace was happy with her performance and acknowledged some aspects of night golf were a real positive.
“I’ve never played under floodlights before and I struggled in the Pro-Am, but it was a lot easier today – I’m glad I played the Pro-Am now,” she said.
“I like the tournament format, the night golf, it’s nice to sleep in in the morning!”
Welshwoman Lydia Hall and England’s Alice Hewson finished with five-under par rounds of 67, with Hall satisfied with the flat stick after carding 29 putts.
“It was a solid round tee-to-green,” Hall said. “I only missed three greens today and that’s what cost me my two bogeys, but it was a good start to the tournament.”
Two-time Major winner Ariya Jutanugarn, making her Dubai debut and first professional round under the floodlights, carded a four-under 68 to stay in touch with the leaders.
Jutanugarn is in a chasing pack that includes England’s Bronte Law and Spaniard Carmen Alonso, the trio one ahead of Ariya’s sister Moriya in tied 10th.
Laura Davies and Solheim Cup-winning-captain Catriona Matthew had to settle for one under par rounds of 71.
“I played really well to be honest, it’s a shame I bogeyed the last [17th],” Davies said.
“I drove really well, hit a few ropey irons a little bit left, but they were hitting the greens so two putting for par. It was quite an easy one-under par, could have been two or three, but I gave one back at the last.”