WATERLOO — As he was making the trek North to Waterloo Tuesday from his home in Memphis, Richie Schembechler had a deja vu moment.
The defending Waterloo Open professional champion recalled feeling pretty good about his golf game during the same drive prior to victory last summer.
Schembechler feels his most recent results, an eighth-place finish at the Swing Thought Tour event in Richmond, Ky., last weekend and a round of 67 in a pre-qualifier for the PGA Barbasol Open last week are indicators that another big weekend could be in store.
The 86th Waterloo Open tees off Friday at Irv Warren Golf Course with the 54-hole tournament wrapping up on Sunday. The winner will take home a $50,000 prize.
“I’m feeling pretty good, playing pretty good coming into it,” said Schembechler. “I’ve had a lot of good tournaments this year, ones where I hit it really well and a lot where I putted well.
“I have been really close in a lot of events. It was kind of sort of the same lead-up that I had last year, building momentum at the right time.”
Schembechler earned the $50,000 winner’s check last year with a last nine surge and one-shot edge over former UCLA golfer Preston Valder.
The two were tied after 36 holes. Schembechler fired a second-round 62, the lowest of his professional career, but Valder surged ahead on Sunday with a strong front nine.
Trouble for Valder on 14 and 15 saw Schembechler erase a two-stroke deficit with an eagle on 15 and he held off Valder over the final three holes for his first professional victory.
“I was not really nervous, was not focused on what anyone else was doing” Schembechler said of that final round. “I made a couple of bogies on five and eight that put me behind the 8-ball a little bit, but I figured it was just me and him, was pretty comfortable that one of us was going to win.
“He (Valder) played really well. He basically made one mistake on 14, and I eagled on 15, and that was the break I needed. It is probably one of my best memories in golf. I’m excited to come back and play as the defending champion and see if I could do it twice.”
Schembechler, a native of Ohio who is a distant relative of legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler (his grandfather and Bo Schembechler were cousins), will try to become the ninth golfer in the 86-year history of the Waterloo Open to win the championship in back-to-back years.
The feat has actually been accomplished twice in the last 10 years — PGA regular Nathan Lashley won in 2010 and 2011, and Tom Whitney went back-to-back in 2015-16.
“I’ve been thinking about the tournament a lot,” Schembechler said. “Thinking about how to shoot a lower score, certain holes I could improve on and stuff, better strategy.”
Schembechler begins defense of his title at 8:05 a.m. Friday on Hole 10.
Several players who finished in the top 10 last July are also in the field.
Bryan Martin of Thousand Oaks, Calif., who tied for third in 2018 following a final-round 63, tees off No. 10 at 1:55 p.m.
Nathan Stamey, who also tied for third, starts on No. 10 at 2 p.m., while Cristobal Del Solar, seventh, begins his tournament at 1:40 on No. 1
A pair of former champions — two-time winners Jerod Turner and Jeff Schmid, who is one of eight previous back-to-back winners (1996-97) — are also in the field.
Friday tee times
6:30 a.m. — Jay Monahan, Thomas Bonney, Brad Adamonis.
6:40 a.m. — Austyn Karle, Wyatt Worthington II, Nathan Maas
6:50 a.m. — David Ganz, MIchael Visacki, Zach Golembiewski.
7:00 a.m. — Jeff Berkshire, Bobby Taggart, Michael Yaeger.
7:10 a.m. —Ian Snyman, Charles Hahn, Brad Marek.
7:20 a.m.—Mike Anderson, Ben Harden, Avery Schneider.
7:30 a.m. — Eric Cole, Toppie Hogan, Kyle Slattery.
7:40 a.m. — Dave Schultz, Jacob Eggers, John Henno.
7:50 a.m. — Eric Meierdierks, Daniel Hudson, Cole Adams.
8:00 a.m. — Jake Appleby, Charlie Duensing, Spencer Smith.
8:10 a.m. — Tee Opperman, Ben Albin, Matthew Meneghetti.
8:20 a.m. — Matt Hutchins, Tyler Koivisto, Jerrad Barley.
8:30 a.m. — Danny Gorman, Jacob Lestishen, Michael McCabe.
8:40 a.m. — Joo-Young Lee, Keven Fortin-Simard, Mitchell Homb.
8:50 a.m. — Quinton Pope, Zander Lozano, Kyle Pilgrim.
12:00 p.m. — Brad Benjamin, Eric Hallberg, Matt Jebavy.
12:10 p.m. — Ian Benedict, Tyler Smith, Ricky Hearden.
12:20 p.m. — Jeffrey Schmid, Matt Loiacano, Bryce Emory.
12:30 p.m. — Matthew Walker, Kyle Driscoll, Barrett Kelpin.
12:40 p.m. — Austin Jordan, Ryan Banwart, Robb Taylor.
12:50 p.m. — Matthew Dray, Gavin Hall, Ryan Cole.
1:00 p.m. — Chris Gillman, Austin Graham, Brian Bullington.
1:10 p.m. — Blake Maum, Zach Steffen, Daniel Longmire.
1:20 p.m. — Michael Schachner, Andrew Buckle, Trent Jones.
1:30 p.m. — Mike Dominick, Zach Burry, Scott Pechacek.
1:40 p.m. — Cristobal Del solar, Corbin Mills, Crawford Reeves.
1:50 p.m. — Joseph Gunerman, Pablo Mena-Medrano Kyle Kochevar.
2:00 p.m. — Johnny Watts, Brian Ohr, Nathan Stamey.
2:10 p.m. — Alexander Riddle, Conner Godsey, Joseph Hurn.
2:20 p.m. — Joshua Butterfield, Brooks Thomas, Casey Fernandez.
6:35 a.m. — Ethan Brue, Chandler Blanchet, Alex Romo
6:45 a.m. — Brant Peaper, Matt Snyder, John Greco.
6:55 a.m. — Cody Burrows, Matthew Jennings, Josh Montgomery.
7:05 a.m. — Vinnie Murphy, Tyler Peggs, Matthew Pinizzotto.
7:15 a.m. — Aaron Murphy, Tanner Gore, Justin Bryant.
7:25 a.m. — Hunter O’Mahony, Adam Turner, Kyle Westmoreland.
7:35 a.m. — Timothy Hildebrand, Thaddeus Obecny II, Matthew Picanso.
7:45 a.m. — Kaylor Steger, Austin Sipe, Sam Triplett.
7:55 a.m. — Dan Worley, Ted Moon, Shawn Yim.
8:05 a.m. — Jordan Cowart, Richard Schembechler, Graham McAree.
8:15 a.m. — Anthony Alex, Michael Weaver, Patrick Lundy.
8:25 a.m. — Mackenzie Nelson, Caleb Sibley, Patrick Stolpe.
8:35 a.m. — Jacob McBride, Brian Hughes, Jack Lang.
8:45 a.m. — Ryan Isaacson, Tyler Gammill, Jordan Miller.
8:55 a.m. — Grant Brown, Kyle Gaines, Willie Wittmann.
12:05 p.m. — Carson Schaake, Dylan Stein, Josh Weems.
12:15 p.m. — Blake Kennedy, David Lawrence Piri Borja.
12:25 p.m. — Matt Miller, Jake Bauer, Zahkai Brown.
12:35 p.m. — Brent Quade, Scott Wolfes, Sean Kelly.
12:45 p.m. — Taylor Davis, Nicholas Contini, Kyle Szyhowski.
12:55 p.m. — Jake Daly, Peter Webb, Jon Weiss Jr.
1:05 p.m. — Blake Jens, Broc Everett, Gerald Harsley.
1:15 p.m. — Luke McClellan, Sam DeBartolo, Kyle Rodes.
1:25 p.m. — Michael Davan, Ryan Siegler, Mark Baker.
1:35 p.m. — Seth Fair, Spence Fulford, Ethan Castle.
1:45 p.m. — Trevor Ullestad, Jerod Turner, Jonathan Diianni.
1:55 p.m. — Bryan Martin, Jeffrey Kellen, Marco Scarola
2:05 p.m. — Dominic Piccirillo, Matt McClung, Ryan Williams.
2:15 p.m. — Wes Buntenbach, Thomas Eldridge, Dan Woltman.
2:25 p.m. — David Longmire, Collin Neeman, Christopher Petefish.