NORTON — Finally!

Following a plethora of top-10 finishes, owning five second-place finishes, Derek Johnson finally found a smile on his face after 72 holes of the Attleboro Area Golf Association’s Open.

“It feels good — I hit the right clubs, I hit the ball well,” the 57-year-old Johnson, by way of King Philip Regional High School — class of 1980 and tutored by legendary coach Mike Cosentino — said after taking a six-shot lead at the turn onto the backside of the Norton Country Club Sunday and parading past a half-dozen contenders for the championship.

Johnson came in with a final round of 5-over-par 76 for a four-day total of 12-over-par 298, creating a six-shot margin of victory over Norton High-trained and University of Hartford sophomore Jared Winiarz.

Without even addressing his ball for the second shot of the final round, Johnson turned a one-shot deficit into the lead in his quest for the 59th Annual Attleboro Area Golf Association Open into a one-shot lead.

After merely two holes of play, Johnson owned a three-shot advantage, all because Scott Congdon had steered his drives off of both the No. 1 and No. 2 holes at the Norton Country Club into hazards.

“I was hitting fairways and greens, that’s all that I was trying to do,” Johnson said of his methodical approach. “For the most part, I did that on the front side. Then I kind of struggled coming in.”

With Congdon being assessed a one-stroke penalty on each miscue, then having to ink a double bogey on each of those holes, it paved the way for Johnson to follow his game plan of steady play. Other than a double bogey at No. 9, Johnson never allowed his advantage to slip below four shots over Congdon.

“Those first two swings set the tone,” Congdon, the owner of the 2014 and 2017 AAGA Opens said. “I started going backwards. I didn’t know where the ball was going off of the tee — it was tough to score.”

Congdon recorded his third double bogey on the front side, at No. 6, but managed to creep back into contention at No. 9. On the 340-yard, par-4 adventure, Johnson sprayed his second shot over the green into the rough, then smacked the ball almost laterally into more rough terrain, finishing with a double bogey.

Then Congdon parred No. 10, while Johnson sprayed his drive left on the 350-yard, par-5 hole and had to settle for a bogey.

But Johnson, dramatically, stoked his competitive fire at the par-3 No. 12 hole. Johnson was short of the green off the tee, then left his approach shot six feet away from the cup. With Congdon already having inked a par, Johnson rolled the ball into the cup for a par as well.

Then at No. 13, Johnson two-putted from 18 feet away below the cup for a par. Congdon, meanwhile, smacked his second shot into the sand and had to ink a bogey on his scorecard.

“I was hoping to make some birdies (none, with 11 pars),” Congdon continued. “Derek played solid, I couldn’t be happier for him,” Congdon said. “I’ve played with him so many times, this final group — it’s good to see.”

Meanwhile Winiarz, who was 13 shots behind Congdon heading to the No. 1 tee on his home course, started to sizzle. He finished at 1-under-par 70 with nine pars, five birdies and four bogeys, playing the backside at 2-under-par 33 — with birdie putts all inside of 15 feet at Nos. 10, 11, 12 and 14.

Winiarz, who has played in some 10 tournaments this summer, owned a season-best score of 68 on his home course. “That’s what I was trying to shoot. Coming in here, I knew that I could shoot well. Knowing the history of this tournament, you play four days on four different courses, four different types of greens — you have to adapt.”

Congdon finished in a four-way tie for fourth place at 19-over-par 305 with Shawn Seybert (79 with 12 pars), Billy White (a medalist 69 with 11 pars, five birdies) and Jason See (77 with 13 pars).

“I never thought that I was in it,” Seybert, a Foxborough CC member said of lending chase. He took a triple bogey at No. 2 and did not have a birdie. “I just wanted to play steady; I’m a grinder, but that second hole let the air out.”

See, the Mansfield High junior, had seven front-side pars. “I was hoping to get some birdies, but I couldn’t find one,” he said, making the turn at 2-over-par 38, having entered the fourth day of play at seven shots behind Congdon, the three-round leader. “After Foxborough (CC, the first day) I thought that I was in good shape; I was consistent all four days.”

Johnson had finished in the No. 2 spot in the AAGA Open in 2015 (to Davis Chatfield), in 2006 (to Bert Bouley), in 2005 (to Ryan Riley) and in 2001 (to John “Buck” Renner).

But in 2019, Johnson earned the No. 1 spot.

Johnson drained a 25-foot uphill putt at the 150-yard, par-3 No. 7 hole and stamped an exclamation mark on his first title at the 385-yard, par-4 No. 17 hole by lacing a 28-foot putt from the right fringe and slightly below cup in for another birdie.

“That putt on the 12th (for par) was a good one to make,” Johnson admitted. “I knew that after those first four holes (Congdon being 5-over-par), all I had to do was play my game. I hit the ball well, I was happy the way that I hit it and I putted pretty well.

“I was fairly relaxed — I was a little nervous at the start. But, once that I started playing (and took the lead), I settled down. All I needed to do was keep the ball in front of me.

“After all of those top-10s and runner-ups, finally!”

59th Annual Attleboro Area Golf Association Open

Final round at the par-71, 6,560-yard Norton Country Club

Scores and relation to par

Derek Johnson 74-79-69-76—298 +12

Jared Winiarz 77-83-74-70—304 +18

Scott Congdon 76-73-72-84—305 +19

Shawn Seybert 79-72-75-79—305 +19

Jason See 76-75-77-77—305 +19

Bill White 77-82-77-69—305 +19

Geoff Burgess 72-72-78-81—307 +21

Ben Sapovits 81-76-74-76—307 +21

Dave Turgeon 80-77-76-74—307 +21

Kolby Simmons 75-81-74-77—307 +21

Peter Danko 77-74-77-79—307 +21

Mike Pyne 78-79-74-78—309 +23

Benjamin Grant 76-72-76-85—309 +23

Chad Bearce 77-77-73-84—311 +25

Michael Douilette 83-74-73-81—311 +25

Michael Philipp 79-80-71-81—311 +25

Michael Philipp 79-80-71-81—311 +25

Justin Guimond 77-78-77-79—311 +25

Mike Finocchi 84-74-74-80—312 +26

Anthony Duva 80-80-75-77—312 +26

Kevin Willwerth 77-82-73-80—312 +26

Mike Michel 76-74-86-77—313 +27

David Yurek 82-84-75-72—313 +27

Dan Tinkham 80-82-76-75—313 +27

Spencer Dumas 84-79-75-76—314 +28

Peter Mulkerins 84-74-77-80—315 +29

Steve Finocchi 79-78-73-85—315 +29

Bert Bouley 84-79-76-77—316 +30

Marc Forbes 83-83-73-78—316 +30

Neal Boyer 83-79-75-80—317 +31

Tyler Sinacola 78-82-78-81—319 +33

Daniel Bukoff 80-84-75-82-321 +35

Jim Devlin 80-80-80-81—321 +35

Ryan McGovern 86-76-83-78—323 +37

Brandon Nolan 84-80-78-81—323 +37

Jim Dickinson 85-78-81-80—324 +38

Mike Ferrell 84-80-87-75—326 +40

Brian Kronmiller 86-78-79-83—326 +40

Jason Hindman 88-78-77-84—327 +41

Roger Bousquet 74-84-78-92—328 +42

Sean McHugh 81-84-78-85—328 +42

Tim Murphy 85-82-77-84-328 +42

Grant Certuse 88-78-82-84-328 +42

Chris Hanson 81-82-83-84—330 +44

Matt Hogan 80-84-82-85—331 +45

Mark Metcalf 84-83-78-87—332 +46

Matthew Wasserman 89-77-81-86—333 +47

Nicholas Calderone 83-84-78-88—333 +47

Michael Nyhan 88-79-79-88—334 +48

Ethan Johnson 90-77-83-85—335 +49

Evan Dean 81-83-84-87—335 +49

Peter Gobis may be reached at 508-236-0375

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