Growing up in tiny Sundown, Texas, opera singer Eric Barry would find solace toward the end of a hard day by hitting golf balls from his front lawn to the first hole of the golf course across the street.
“And I’d take my putter and an 8 iron, and I’d play holes 2, 3, 4 and 5, and I’d walk back home,” Barry said.
At 33, Barry brings the same approach to golf as he does to singing. And he recently was rewarded for that connection, being chosen by Mizuno to be part of Team JPX, a 12-person roster of “game-improvement” amateurs to be featured in its Play Famously marketing campaign.
“I always feel comforted, and I always feel at peace on the course because it reminds me of those times,” said Barry, a Norwalk resident and recent Yale alum. “I can meditate on the course, and I just enjoy the serenity of it.”
Once called the “Pavarotti of the Panhandle” in Amarillo, Texas, Barry said the role of Rodolfo in “La Boheme” is probably his signature role at this point: “It’s 19th-century romantic music, Italian romantic. ... Gorgeous music and very fitting with my personality.”
That would be the bohemian life. He’s on the road about 9 months a year, which is tough on a relationship (he does have a steady girlfriend) and it forces him to miss family events.
Aside from Barry perhaps, the amateur team’s individual stories aren’t particularly unique, which means regular people will identify with them. There’s a cancer survivor, a once-obese guy who lost 60 pounds, a guy who survived childhood polio, a Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and a workaholic businesswoman who learned to slow down with the help of golf.
Barry’s story is that of an opera singer with performance anxiety who, partly through golf, “has been able to overcome his fear and thrive on stage performing in immensely pressure-packed situations,” according to a Mizuno release.
Barry — the only Northeast resident on the team — says it was more about growing pains.
“As an adult, who completely shifted (his) focus and life essentially to do something completely different ... it’s just hard,” he said. “ You go from ... I just started singing to I’m making my Carnegie Hall debut. Like, what’s going on? It’s a blessing; it’s great, but at the same time, there has to be some kind of an outlet for all of those emotions.”