Doing It All
Opera Singer, Voice Professor Shows Talent On Course, Qualifies For Mid-Amateur
By David Shefter, USGA
River Hills, Wis. – It’s another typical Wisconsin winter day. Temperatures are hovering in the teens. Snow has covered the ground and there’s a bitter chill from the winds.
And Jim Doing is wearing a University of Wisconsin short-sleeved polo golf shirt and khaki shorts, swinging a 5-iron.
Trying to catch the spirit for a U.S. Open contest, the 48-year-old professor of voice appears to be in better shape to catch pneumonia.
Then, with his deep tenor voice, Doing begins to bellow out a hearty parody to the well-known overture from the musical "Oklahoma.".
"There’s a white frosty glaze on the fairway…My hybrid’s as high as the birds in the sky …And my little mashie niblick is landing pin high …Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day … I’ve got a wonderful feeling, Torrey is coming my way!"
The home video was shot when Doing sent in an application for this past year’s Golf Digest/U.S. Open Contest, What Would You Shoot? After writing a 100-word essay on why he should be chosen and surviving the first wave of cuts, Doing, along with the remaining applicants, was required to make a home video. So Doing combined his two passions – golf and opera singing – into a brief skit that eventually made it to golfdigest.com and thanks to his daughter, the popular video Web site YouTube.
"My family thought I was nuts," said Doing of the shoot that took place in February. "I thought to myself … let’s doing something cute. You have to do something memorable, right? I’m in Wisconsin. I should go swing in the snow."
Shot by his daughter with a digital camera, Doing needed a couple of takes to get the lyrics and timing just right. By then his entire body had become numb and he needed to thaw out.
The end result: Doing became an Internet legend for his enthusiastic attempt at insanity, but he wasn’t one of the finalists selected for a chance to play Torrey Pines with three celebrities prior to the 2008 U.S. Open.
Perhaps his near-scratch handicap had something to do with it. Or maybe contest organizers thought they had a certifiable nut on their hands.
But in late August Doing earned an even better consolation prize – qualifying for his first USGA championship. An even-par 72 at Geneva National’s Trevino Course earned Doing one of the five available qualifying spots into the Mid-Amateur, which will be conducted about an hour’s drive from his Verona, Wis., home at Milwaukee Country Club/Brown Deer Park Sept. 6-11.
Not bad for someone who only began to take the game seriously again 13 years ago and was making his third attempt at U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifying.
"With three holes left, I started feeling it," said Doing. "I was very excited when I got in. The interesting thing about my case is I’m an older guy who basically got better with age. Most guys were better in college than they are now. I’m totally opposite."
Doing’s journey to the Mid-Amateur actually began at a private nine-hole course in northwestern Connecticut. His father, an Episcopal priest, was given membership into the local tennis and golf clubs. So as a youth, Doing began caddieing at the nine-hole course and once he turned 13 he was permitted to play. He continued to play through high school, although he never lowered his handicap beyond a 10.
Golf was put on the backburner once he enrolled at the University of Connecticut. Doing began studying engineering before switching to English and eventually music, where he would earn a master’s degree in voice. His travels would take him to Santa Fe, N.M., for an opera apprentice program and then to the Netherlands, where Doing and his wife – he got married at 22 – would spend the next 11 years. Doing landed a position at the Netherlands Opera Studio, which enabled Doing to perfect his craft through a variety of roles.
Both he and his wife became naturalized citizens of the Netherlands and all five of their children were born in there, three of which had cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease that affects the lungs, liver, pancreas and intestines. Three years ago, one of those kids was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 13, but now he seems to be in remission after undergoing surgery and chemotherapy.
It was because of the cystic fibrosis and the couple’s isolation from family members in the U.S. that prompted a move back across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1995, Doing landed a teaching position at the University of Missouri in Columbia as a professor of voice and director of the school’s opera.
The move also prompted a return to the game Doing loved as a kid. With more free time in the summer, Doing discovered he could play all day at the school’s Gustin Golf Course for $11. And the more he played the more desire he had to improve. He subscribed to all the golf magazines and he purchased several instructional books, including Ben Hogan’s "Five Fundamentals." With each passing year, Doing watched his handicap drop from 12 or 13 to eventually low single-digits.
In 1998, frustrated by his lack of time to sing, Doing transferred to his current position at the University of Wisconsin, where he continued to spend his summers honing his golf skills.
"The Holy Grail for the regular guy is to be a scratch golfer," said Doing. "It’s like a myth. Finally, two years ago at the age of 46, I hit scratch."
This year, Doing joined Hawks Landing, a private club in the Madison area, and prior to U.S. Mid-Amateur media day on Aug. 21, he had played 111 rounds, with more than 70 at his home club. One of Hawks Landing’s assistants has started calling Doing "laps" because "every time he sees me, I am coming back to the clubhouse thinking I’ll go back again."
Doing recently won his club championship and despite his extremely low handicap, has advanced to the semifinals of the Green Jacket, a full-handicap, match-play competition at the club. He’s had to give strokes to every opponent but one.
Now Doing’s big test will come at the U.S. Mid-Amateur, where he’ll be up against some of the best 25-and-over amateurs in the country.
"With golf I know I can do it," said Doing, who will miss a couple of class days at the university to compete in the Mid-Amateur. He is teaching diction this semester while also tutoring 15 to 17 students. "But doing it on that day is very difficult. Is it your day or not? Can you handle your nerves?"
Don’t expect Doing to suffer from stage fright. After all, he’s performed on the big stage since college. He has done more than 70 opera roles in Paris, Nice, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Antwerp, St. Louis, New York, Cleveland, Santa Fe, Chicago, Milwaukee and elsewhere. His operatic roles have ranged from Telemaco in Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’UlisseI to a critically acclaimed portrayal of Roderick Usher in Philip Glass’s The Fall of the House of Usher. As a Motzart specialist, his roles have included Tamino, Belmonte, Don Ottavio, Ferrando, Oebalus, Marzio, Bastien and the comedic Pedrillo, Basilio and Vogelsang.
That talent didn’t go unnoticed by USGA officials. Doing has been asked to sing at the annual players’ dinner on Sept. 4.
Of course, Doing is coming to MCC hoping to make noise with his clubs, not audition for "American Idol."
"My dream here would be to get in match play," said Doing. "I know very well that’s a reach. I know I can do it, it’s just whether I will. I can score and make birdies. I [just] wouldn’t put any money on me."
David Shefter is a USGA New Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.