Black president of Detroit Golf Club speaks on historic city treasure

Lane Coleman Golf Club

Since October, 2014, Lane Coleman, an African American and global entrepreneur, has served as president of the historic Detroit Golf Club (DGC) and chairman of its board. In his dual positions, Coleman renders leadership to Detroit’s only private golf club, and one of America’s oldest and most storied entities of its type. He is the second African American to serve as president of DGC.
Founded in 1899, DGC sits on 220 acres of wooded landscape, just west of Palmer Park on the city’s westside. It is located behind large Colonial and Tudor homes on Hamilton Rd., south of W. 7 Mile Rd. It’s location within the city limits of Detroit, versus the suburbs like most private and country golf clubs across the nation, makes DGC totally unique.
DGC also has one of the nation’s most diverse memberships, which is inclusive of women, African Americans, and many other ethnic groups. While racially diverse now, at one time – not all that long ago – Detroit Golf Club was devoid of Black members. “There were hurdles for African Americans.” said Coleman. “The Detroit Golf Club didn’t get its first African American member until 1986; it was Mayor Coleman A. Young. It was not that he aspired to be a member, it was because he was miffed that as mayor of Detroit, there was a place in Detroit that he didn’t have access to. What was more interesting was, up to Mayor Young, all previous mayors of Detroit got an honorary membership since the club’s inception in 1899.”
According to a United Press International article at the time, the club’s 12-member board of directors approved Mayor Young’s application for a social membership on the first ballot, which meant the mayor had access to the club, but with no golfing privileges.
Lane Coleman said Walter Watkins, a prominent banking executive in the region, was the first African American to receive full membership to the DGC, about six months after Mayor Young broke the organization’s color barrier. In 2003, Walter C. Elliott Jr. was elected as the first African American president of DGC, after becoming a member in 1991. He had previously served on the club’s board.
Coleman estimates that DGC now has 640 members, about 64 of which, are Black. “The African American members are a who’s who of Black metro Detroiters,” said Coleman, who currently is the only African American on the DGC’s board; other Blacks have been members of the board in the past.
Coleman speaks with pride about the fabled club’s amenities that feature two 18-hole courses designed by famed world golf course designer Donald Ross. The clubhouse was designed by the iconic Albert Kahn. Additionally, DGC has an Olympic-size swimming pool, a huge patio overlooking the manicured greens, and a top-notched restaurant. Recent developments have included a cigar bar, workout room, a $700,000 renovation to the North Course, and the relatively new hiring of COO, Mike Strain and executive chef Brian Henson in 2014.
Coleman is extremely proud of the DGC’s caddie program which offers young adults (14 to the early 20s) in Detroit an opportunity to learn how to be a caddy, inclusive of its earning potentials. According to Coleman, DGC awards six scholarships each year through its caddie program. The program has been one of the highest contributors to The Evans Scholarship Foundation, which is the nation’s largest privately funded college scholarship program.
While Coleman serves as DGC’s president and board chair, he is also founder and CEO of the Detroit-based Strike Group LLC, which he describes as a sustainment logistics and material supply sourcing entity with expertise in distribution, logistic, and warehousing services. The company, which began in 1998, is a prominent defense and government contractor with world-wide suppliers.
Additionally, Strike Group LLC is a leading provider of advanced electrical/lighting supplies and fixtures to such entities as Detroit Public Schools, Detroit Metropolitan Airport’s McNamara Terminal, as well as other companies.
Interestingly, Coleman’s discovery of the game of golf, as well as his foundational knowledge on which his company is built, originated from his military days. He was once a United States Naval Officer, where he was a pilot and intelligence officer, two military capacities that less than one percent of African Americans enlisted men and women have served. He served with honor aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in support to Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.
After retiring from active duty, Coleman and his services as a top intelligence officer, were recalled after the tragedies of 9/11. Following 20 years of dedicated “active and reserve” service in the navy, Coleman retired again in 2009.
Born and raised in Chicago, Coleman came to Detroit from the Windy City in 1991, when he was an account manager for Amoco Oil. His manager at Amoco asked him to move to the Motor City for one year; afterwards, he could transfer anywhere else.
While somewhat reluctant to make the move, Coleman ultimately decided to step out on faith. “Detroit was the turning point in my life,” said Coleman, who has a bachelor’s degree in design engineering from North Illinois Universtiy. “When I got here, I saw that Detroit was a place where people, who looked like me, were owning businesses and doing some real amazing and interesting things. I started meeting some of these successful entrepreneurs and began to love the city. When a year had passed, Amoco management in Chicago asked me where I wanted to go. I said I wanted to stay in Detroit.”
Following a stint with Amoco, Coleman, while still based in Detroit, became regional manager for Mays Chemical Company in Indianapolis. He subsequently was the founder and executive vice president of Sigma Group Distribution LLC in Detroit, before starting Strike Group LLC.
Whether overseeing his global company, or lending expertise as a naval intelligence officer, or rendering leadership to the evolution of the historic DCG and its board, Coleman, who is married with two daughters, abides by the same philosophy for success that he learned decades ago. “You have to show up, put in the hard work, and believe in yourself,” said Coleman. “And don’t be afraid to associate with, recruit and/or hire people on your team who are better and smarter than you…park your ego.”

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