Rubin: Country club goes from ‘Yay, us’ to ‘Yay, all’

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Nobody could come up with a good idea, but Brenda Lane quickly identified a bad one: Yay, us.

Meadowbrook Country Club in Northville is in its 100th year, which seemed noteworthy. Board member Jeff Lane says that while everyone was rightfully pleased about that, several meetings passed without a solid notion for a commemoration.

Then he brought it up at home, and his actress wife responded with a properly theatrical eye-roll.

“You’re going to have a ‘Yay, us’ party, aren’t you?” she said. When he looked perplexed, she explained what she meant — a party where people stand around and congratulate each other for being so darned splendid.

That, says Jeff Lane, was the inspiration for something different: a centennial celebration where the club congratulates everyone else.

In honor of Year No. 100, Meadowbrook has kicked off a drive among its members to raise $100,000 to distribute to four charities with ties to the area.

Furthermore, MCC is issuing an unofficial challenge to other clubs that might be celebrating anniversaries or just feeling generous or unfulfilled.

“Copy it,” Lane says. “Beat it. Improve on it. Come to us and ask how we did it.”

It’s not exactly the ice bucket challenge, where anyone with a cellphone can pitch in. Not everybody belongs to a country club.

But it’s not the “Caddyshack” standard, either, with a bunch of rich snoots handing over $500 they found in their other pants.

Habit of looking beyond

Yes, the members tend to have more money than the average person.

“Earned it, scammed it, inherited it, lucked into it,” says Lane, 56, who’s retired from a midsized auto supplier.

But the drive comes at a peculiar time. They’re already paying dues for access to a golf course they can’t play because it’s closed until next spring for a renovation they’ve assessed themselves to cover.

A quick side note for golfers: Meadowbrook is rerouting the Willie Park Jr. design, lengthening it, improving drainage, rebuilding greens and bunkers, and otherwise refreshing an already impressive course to preserve the original attitude while adapting to modern conditions.

OK, back to giving away $100,000: The fact is, the club already makes a habit of looking beyond its lovingly landscaped borders.

Diane Powers is the director of one of the recipients, Bridgepointe, whose mission is to bring together kids from southwest Detroit and the suburbs.

At the suggestion of members, she says, Bridgepointe regularly buses hundreds of kids to the Meadowbrook pool, where they’re taught by the club’s swim team.

General manager Joe Marini “fell in love with having the kids at the club,” Powers says. She’ll get calls — “Can your kids come and play tennis? Can they use the driving range?”

“It always fills my heart,” Powers says. “This is what tomorrow could look like.”

Contributions at $25,000

The Main Street League, another all-volunteer, no-overhead organization, has provided everything from shoes and backpacks for schoolkids to new tires for a struggling mom.

The $25,000 it’s expected to receive because Meadowbrook had a birthday amounts to about a third of its normal annual budget.

The other beneficiaries are Angela Hospice of Livonia and CATCH, the children’s charity founded by the late Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson.

Meadowbrook has 325 golf members, plus 350 more at levels from social to life.

Most of them haven’t been asked to weigh in yet, but contributions from the board and other early adapters have already hit $25,000. The campaign itself will be gentle, with a booth set up inside the clubhouse door, but no threats, strong-arming or even fierce gazes.

The checks and hugs will be handed out at a party in August — black tie optional, joy mandatory. Representatives from the charities will be among the guests.

“Isn’t it great?” Marini asks. “Doesn’t it resonate? I think our founders would look down and say ...”

He searches momentarily for a phrase, and Lane jumps in:

“Yay, us.”

Twitter: @nealrubin_dn