SA’s Ashleigh Simon holes a putt on the 18th green at Buckinghamshire  GC

South African Ashleigh Simon and Germany’s Caroline Masson shared the first round lead after a spectacular pair of nine-under-par 63s on a glorious morning of sunshine at the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters on Friday.

Solheim Cup hope Masson had a flawless nine-under containing nine birdies and said: “I played really well, hit 17 greens and made one really good save out of the bunker for par. It was solid golf, good putting and when it’s like that, golf is a lot of fun.”

Despite starting early, with a 7.10am tee time, she said: “I had a good breakfast. I was up early at 4.45am so maybe I should do that more often. It was good fun and I really enjoyed it today. I was talking to my caddie about the bunkers because I was at home last week and practising a lot and I had one day where I was hitting it really close out of the bunkers. I’m feeling good out of the bunkers, so it’s confidence. Those longer bunker shots are never that easy but it worked out well.”

Simon made a spectacular finish to tie for the lead with Masson at nine-under 63.

“I managed to birdie the last five holes to finish at nine-under, so I’m very pleased. Last week I finished fifth and played really well; I just made some silly mistakes,” Simon said. “This week I knew if I kept hitting the ball like last week, there was a low one in me. I even had a drop today and that was a three-putt, so disappointing but I stayed in the present and just kept going.

“I hit some really good shots coming in the last few holes and had to hole some putts as well. The greens are superb here. You just have to pick your line and put a good stroke on it and they are going to go in.”

“The course is in great condition. It’s better than last year. I think the rain on Tuesday definitely helped soften it up a bit. You can fire at these pins and they are definitely holding.”

Germany’s Caroline Masson

Australian Rebecca Artis, Klara Spilkova of the Czech Republic and German rookie Ann-Kathrin Lindner all played early and finished at  six-under, with  fellow early starters Cheyenne Woods, Bree Arthur and Kylie Walker joined by Italians Diana Luna and Margherita Rigon a stroke further behind on five-under-par.

There are three places available for the top players who are not yet exempt for the Ricoh Women’s British Open via this week’s tournament.

Woods is looking to book her spot and said afterwards that she was delighted with her round and determined not to let in slip, like she had done the previous week after a first-round 64 in Madrid.

“I felt like I played really steady. One bogey, I felt like I hit the ball well so overall it was a good day,” said Woods, who celebrated her 23rd birthday on Thursday.

“I definitely learned last week through experiencing it, so this week I feel really good. I’m just going to continue to play steady and not worry about today’s round. Tomorrow is a new day and I’ll just continue my strong play the rest of the week.”

England’s Charley Hull, 17, started well with an eagle on her first hole, the 10th, and was part of a group at four-under alongside the world No.7, Karrie Webb. Hull and Webb were part of a three-ball with Laura Davies, who opened with a level par 72.

Webb, a veteran seven-time major champion from Australia, was impressed with the teenage Hull.

She said: “What a fantastic talent. Quite a big pairing for her today and she eagled the first hole. I don’t know how many nerves were there but very impressive. We joked that out there, she is a member at Woburn and that’s where I won my first British Open and it was a year before she was born so that puts things in perspective. I think she’ll be around for a long time!”

The ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters is live on Sky Sports in HD and on mobile and tablet devices via Sky Go.