by Pam Warnke
WISCONSIN RAPIDS (WAOW) -- Joe Lownik doesn't take much for granted, especially a day on the golf course.
At 12-years-old, while shooting guns with his father and a friend, Joe had an accident.
"I ejected a shotgun shell and it hit the ground and went off."
It blew through Lownik's right hand.
"It came right through here and then the pressure exploded out all of this."
Faced with the reality of amputation, the Lownik family found an Appleton doctor who said he could save Joe's hand.
Five surgeries and constant physical therapy over the next few years helped get Joe to the state golf tournament in Madison this past spring.
"3rd place in Division 3. One shot off."
So, how does someone who almost lost a hand medal in a sport where two hands are key?
"Just learning to adapt was all I had to do."
Learning to adapt by being brave enough to head out on the course. Willing, at first, to swing a club with just one hand.
"I just went out with my dad and my friend. Just to try and see if it worked and just to have some fun and keep up with the game."
And it did work, renewing Joe's love for the sport.
He pushed on.
"Just changing everything so it could work out."
Eventually getting through the surgeries.
"Taking a tendon out of this finger and putting it here because otherwise I wouldn't be able to move my thumb out."
Eventually getting to the place where he could put two hands on the club, switching to an interlock grip for more control.
"It probably took about three months, actually, to be able to hold onto the club with two hands."
What once seemed somewhat hopeless has turned into a source of hope for Joe.
"There's nothing you can't overcome if you take the hardwork that's involved."
"I hoped that one day I'd overcome it all, and I finally have and it was worth every bit of it."
Online Reporter: Pam Warnke
1908 Grand Avenue, Wausau, WI 54403
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