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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Former Idaho standout Sophie Hausmann aiming to regain form at Circling Raven Championship

Former Idaho golfer Sophie Hausmann hits a drive during the 2019 Augusta National Women’s Amateur at the Champions Retreat Golf Club.  (Jennifer StewartAugusta National)

Golf, for even the most accomplished players, regularly produces towering highs and brutal lows, sometimes from swing to swing.

Former University of Idaho star Sophie Hausmann is familiar with the concept. A year has gone by since she returned to the Gem State for the 2021 Circling Raven Championship. It certainly hasn’t been a boring 12 months.

Hausmann had perhaps the best stretch of her young professional career with a run of five top-15 finishes, including four in the top seven, in the span of six spring Epson Tour tournaments. Her roll was interrupted by two words that cause every golfer, athlete and human to cringe: Back pain.

After an extended break, Hausmann has returned to competitive golf, but hasn’t regained her early-season form. There’s plenty of time to do so, beginning with the second Circling Raven Championship, a 54-hole event that begins Friday at the scenic course in Worley.

“Full of ups and downs, put it that way,” Hausmann said of the last year. “I did have a real solid start and I feel like I came out of the offseason quite well. It was way more consistent than last year. Yeah, I didn’t win (a tournament) yet, but way more top 10 finishes.

“I was in a pretty good mood and pretty confident. Then health wise, I got COVID and then I had major back problems again. The good thing is I can play and swing pain free. It’s this mix: Well, it’s great to be back, but you want to perform. A couple of things aren’t where they’re supposed to be.”

Hausmann, 25, dealt with back issues during her decorated Vandal career, which included two Big Sky Conference player of the year awards. She knew quickly her latest flare-up was similar to what she experienced in college.

“But the pain was way worse than college,” said Hausmann, who returned to her native Germany to see family and take care of her back. “It was kind of nice since I had an idea of what was going on and we could treat it faster. I was exhausted by physical therapy. I went in at 8 a.m. and was there until 4 (p.m.) every day.

“It’s way better now. I can play and now it’s a balance of how much (time) to give it every day for practice.”

Hausmann has played in the last three Epson events, missing two cuts. She hasn’t shot in the 60s since late May, but her season stats remain solid. She’s carded under-par scores in 18 of 35 rounds, including 12 in the 60s. Her 71.7 scoring average ranks 27th on tour and she’s inside the top 50 in greens in regulation (GIR), putting average and putts per GIR.

Hausmann has made major gains on the greens in particular. She’s usually a reliable ball-striker, but putting was a sticking point last year when she reflected her results. After analyzing every aspect of her putting, she made minor tweaks to her setup, stance and practice routine. She made bigger changes to how she reads greens and connecting what she sees with the execution of her stroke.

“I was like, ‘OK, Sophie, we need to work on the putting, you get so mad at it,’ ” said Hausmann, whose lone Epson Tour win came season at the IOA Championship in Beaumont, California. “So January and February I spent a lot of time on it and tried a few things. Then it was, “OK, can you do it in competition?’ So I played in a LET (Ladies European Tour event) in Kenya and it kind of worked, so let’s keep it going. It’s kind of common sense, but it gives me way more confidence. Even if a couple of things in my game are off, it’s all good because I can still make a putt.”

Another dose of confidence came at the Copper Rock Championship in April. She opened with an 81 in tough conditions, the highest score in her three years on the Epson Tour (previously the Symetra Tour). The round took over six hours, including a short delay due to high winds. She responded with rounds of 69 and 66 to share seventh place.

“I just played solid golf and made the cut,” she said. “The weather was easier. You never know, you just have to hang in there.”

The Circling Raven Championship is the start of a six-tournament closing stretch that will finalize the Epson Tour’s 10 graduates to the LPGA Tour next season and establish the pecking order for those just outside the top 10. It’s crunch time for dozens of players like Hausmann, who is currently 16th on the money list. She was No. 12 at this time last year but missed the cut at Circling Raven.

Those finishing between 11 and 35 qualify for the LPGA Q-Series final stage this winter and top placers can earn LPGA Tour cards.

“From a ranking standpoint, it’s not where I want to be, but I still have a shot,” Hausmann said. “One of the things I learned last year is you have to keep going and keep believing because last year it was tough to see my ranking go down (after her first win). Now it’s maybe the same way, but I know it’s been different because so many parts of my game, especially putting, are why I had all those top 10s and was in contention.

“If I can get it back to there, I maybe have a good chance in the next six events.”