Along with contemporaries Howard Clark, Mark James, Ken Brown and Sam Torrance, Gordon Brand Jr. was one step below the so-called "Big Five” of European golf—Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam and Sandy Lyle—during the 1980s and 1990s. Which is to say that the 60-year-old Scot, who was brought up in Bristol, England, was, by his admission, a really good rather than great player.
On Thursday, the European Tour announced that Brand had died on the eve of the PGA Seniors Championship, a tournament he was preparing to compete in.
During the heart of his career, Brand was hampered by the fact that the qualification process for the three major championships played in the United States, at the time, offered limited access for non-PGA Tour pros. This despite the fact that Brand was an eight-time European Tour winner and two-time Ryder Cup player. Not even after finishing fourth on what was then the European Order of Merit (now the Race to Dubai) in 1987 did Brand merit an invitation to the next year’s Masters. Nor was he exempt for the 1988 U.S. Open or PGA Championship. Only once in his 38-year pro career, at the 1989 U.S Open, at age 38, did Brand tee it up in any of the three.
Still, as a member of the 1987 European Ryder Cup side at Muirfield Village—viewed by many as the strongest-ever Old World lineup—Brand shined, contributing 1½ points to his team’s first-ever victory in America.
Never loathe to having a laugh, Brand was always amused how most thought the “junior” that routinely followed his name was because his father had the same name. As it turned out, the late Brand senior, the longtime club professional at the Knowle Club in Bristol, was also “Gordon.” But it was the presence of yet another Gordon Brand on the European Tour (the Englishman was runner-up to Greg Norman in the 1986 Open at Turnberry) that necessitated some clarification.
Torrance, the former Ryder Cup skipper, was among those quick to pay tribute to his fellow Scot and former four-ball partner. The pair combined to telling effect in the 1989 matches at The Belfry when beating Curtis Strange and Paul Azinger, 1 up.
“Heartbroken,” Torrance said. “One of my dearest friends for over 40 years. I will miss you.”
European Tour star Eddie Pepperell also acknowledged Brand’s characteristic economy of words.
“I remember years ago asking Gordon Brand Jr. if he had any regrets,” said the young Englishman. “ ‘My Ryder Cups say not,’ was his response. At the time I didn’t like it, and thought he was a miserable old man. Turned out he was just proud, and rightly so. Thanks to Gordon for teaching me something.”
Other current European Tour pros took time on Thursday to pay respect to Brand via social-media posts.
Beyond playing on the European Senior Tour, where he had won twice, Brand was also an occasional pundit. Only two weeks ago he was part of the commentary team on “Open Radio” at Royal Portrush. As ever, his commentary was, like the man himself, humorous, intelligent and informative.