Golf has always been present in Stephen Drew’s life.
Born in Detroit and raised in Grand Rapids, Drew consistently saw his father golfing, along with a group of friends that played around the Grand Rapids area.
“I used to get these stories back then about which public courses would allow them to play, which ones wouldn’t,” said Drew. “A unique fact was that one of the courses that didn’t allow them to play was Ridgemoor, and I now live in a house on land that used to be part of that course.”
A course that did allow them to play, and still has a special place in Drew’s mind for that reason, was Gracewil Country Club.
“It was on the West Side of Grand Rapids and back then, the West Side was not the most welcoming neighborhood, so to speak,” said Drew, fondly remembering the Gracewil Country Club owner at the time, Mr. Wilson, and his lack of tolerance for racism. “I didn’t play a lot then, but golf was always in my family and I did play occasionally with them as a youngster—though I never took lessons. Basketball was my main sport.”
One of Drew’s first jobs was caddying at Cascade Hills Country Club for a few years, leading him to play golf sporadically over time, throughout college and shortly afterward.
“I began playing with my Dad’s group again—they were called ‘The Duffers’—and they played all the public courses around,” said Drew. Despite never really being interested in being a country club member, Drew was drawn to Egypt Valley Country Club, then known as Green Ridge, after golfing as a guest in the early ‘80s. “They were one of the first clubs in Grand Rapids to stop restricted tee times for women—I was impressed with that. I always felt comfortable when I played there.”
Drew came out in the late ‘80s to walk the new Egypt Valley location before it was opened and was very impressed with the quality of the courses. The hole Drew thinks about the most from that visit was the short par 4 on the Valley—No. 6.
“I remember seeing that hole and thinking, ‘Wow, this whole course is going to be an interesting test of golf!’” said Drew, who decided to join shortly after the experience in 1989. “I was the first African American to join the club—possibly any private club in Grand Rapids—and I’m very proud that we have as many African American members as we do now and I’m proud of the diversity of the club.”
Another reason Drew found himself at Egypt Valley was because of its culture and family-oriented nature.
Drew was proud of Egypt Valley and the manner in which the club handled and opened up to have the memorial services and repast meal for long-time employee Shaaf Hassen Abdul Hameed.
“It was a very respectful service and honored a man and his family that had been a part of the Egypt Valley experience for years.”
Drew has been married to his wife, Clarice, for 30 years, and has four sons—Ricky, 43; Stephen Jr., 42; Anthony, 40; and Thomas, 28—and one daughter, Sahara, 20. His family all loves golf in some way because of his heritage with the sport and Egypt Valley.
“All four of my sons play and we’re really golfers who just love the game,” Drew said. “I tell the story of when they started out-driving me on the course, which then led them to think they could beat me, so we established a tournament that started at Egypt Valley called The Drew Cup.
“They take it very seriously because they want to beat their old man,” said Drew, noting his name is on the trophy 15 out of the 20 times the tournament has been held. “Golf has been a great influence on the family and something you can do for a long time, and though I can’t still compete with them in basketball, I can still compete in golf.”
When it comes to the courses at Egypt Valley, Drew likes that they’re high-quality.
“They didn’t build one course that was the ‘premier’ course and another one that you could just play if you couldn’t get on the ‘premier’ course,” said Drew, adding that both courses are maintained beautifully. “I think it’s a unique aspect to have two great courses you can play, and I like the challenge of the courses.”
Drew says he even, “in a sick way”, likes No. 2 on the Ridge because it can make or break your round.
“Once you’ve played those courses, no other course you might play should intimidate you because you have to use every shot you can think of at Egypt Valley,” said Drew.
A trial attorney and founding partner of Grand Rapids-based Drew Cooper & Anding, Drew attended University of Michigan for his undergraduate studies and law school, and has been in practice for 45 years.
Drew is proud of the Pillar Award his firm recently received from the Women’s Resource Center, for advocacy on behalf of women in employment. The firm also proudly represents more than 100 gymnasts in the widely publicized case against then Dr. Larry Nassar, Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and U.S. Olympic Committee.
If you see Stephen Drew around the club, be sure to say, “Hello!” When he’s not on the golf course, you’ll most likely find him on the new outdoor patio, relaxing.