GAM Champion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Golf Detroit’s Karen Peek

Written By: Greg Johnson

FARMINGTON HILLS – Karen Peek, the director of operations for Golf Detroit and Signet Golf Associates charged with running Detroit’s three municipal golf courses, feels leaders should try to create a situation where people find comfort and feel valued and welcomed.

“I learned a lot as a teacher that made me a better manager and any golf teacher worth their mettle knows that nobody cares how much you know,” she said. “It’s about how much you care.”

Peek, who will be 69 in May, has been named the Golf Association of Michigan’s (GAM) Champion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for 2024. She will be honored in the spring at the GAM’s Annual Meeting.

“I’m thrilled and humbled to even be nominated,” she said. “Awards like this are a strong validation of the work you do and how you go about your professional life.”

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee member Francine Pegues nominated Peek for the award.

“Karen has quietly gone about hiring women and minority golf course managers and workers for more than 20 years without being acknowledged for her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Pegues said. “It was her time to be recognized! She not only talks the talk about inclusion she walks the walk. Chandler Park in Detroit has both a female manager and female assistant manager for the past two years. Karen is the real deal.”

Peek, a native of Detroit and a University of Michigan graduate, feels she has shaped her life and career with a demonstration of diversity, equity and inclusion. She was the only Black Class A member of the LPGA Teacher and Club Pro Division when she first joined, and the first from Michigan. She was honored at the 1993 national Women in Golf Summit as one of the key women in golf and shared the stage with the likes of golf star Nancy Lopez.

“That was the coolest award before this,” she said. “My experience in golf where I was the first woman of color, the only woman often, has certainly helped shape me. I may not have recognized it at the time, but I was a pioneer of sorts and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to open the door for others, people of color, people of all ages. I’ve always believed there is a place for everyone, and to be able to help create that kind of environment where I’ve worked has been very rewarding for me. While I don’t face those barriers any longer, I love my work, I’m passionate about the game of golf and the industry at large.”

Prior to taking on her current role overseeing operations at Rackham, Rouge Park and Chandler Park courses, Peek worked for 15 years with the American Golf Corporation in Detroit and became a regional director helping to lead the company’s growth. She feels working with the municipal courses in Detroit is a perfect fit for her.

“I believe community operations like the (municipal courses) have such an important role in golf,” she said. “It is so important that they exist in the communities and I witness it all the time,” she said. “Our golfers have a sense that ‘this is my home course,’ they have a sense of community and a place they feel welcome and valued and that’s so important.”

She is the third winner of the Champion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award, which was first awarded in 2022. It is intended to recognize individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the game of golf. Peek called the creation of the award by the GAM a tremendous achievement.

“It speaks to the GAM’s mission and what they try to provide golfers in the community and the state, and that’s especially important to the golfers who are not in the high-profile clubs or in the news cycle with tournament accomplishments, essentially most of the golfers who play at our Detroit courses and so many other courses across the state.”

Peek said she wants the people she has worked with and her staff members to realize they are part of this award.

“Together we’ve built a staff that are people serving,” she said. “They make it happen. Together we keep our community courses going, welcoming a diverse group of golfers and providing a place for them to play a great game.”