Scottish golfer Gordon Brand Jr, who has died suddenly aged 60, was one of Europe’s top players for many years. He played in two Ryder Cups, his debut coming in the historic 1987 match which was the first time the trophy had been won on American soil.
On the European Tour he won eight tournaments, won once on the Australasian Tour and twice on the European Seniors Tour. On six occasions he finished in the top ten of the European Order of Merit with a best of fourth in 1987 while in financial terms his best season was in 1993 when he recorded official prize money of more than half a million pounds.
His record in the Open was perhaps slightly disappointing, his best result tying for fifth at a rain- and wind-lashed Muirfield in 1992 while he only competed in one other major, the US Open in 1994 when he finished 39th. He also represented Scotland seven times in the World Cup and ten times in the Dunhill Cup.
Prior to turning professional in late 1981, he had enjoyed a stellar career as an amateur. His honours included a Walker Cup appearance in 1979, winning the Brabazon Trophy for the English amateur stroke play title, the British Youths’ Amateur title, the Swedish Stroke Play Championship, the Scottish Stroke Play Championship in 1980 at Royal Musselburgh and the Portuguese Amateur Open Championship in 1981.
In his first full season as a professional he made an immediate impact, winning a European tour event, the Coral Classic at Royal Porthcawl, beating the great Australian Greg Norman into second place and becoming the first player to win an event in his ‘rookie’ season since fellow Scot Ronnie Shade.
Three months later he won his second Tour title, the Bob Hope Classic at Moor Park, to round off a superb debut season, finishing seventh in the money winners’ list and awarded the Sir Henry Cotton ‘Rookie of the Year’ accolade.
Known as a very pure ball striker, he had a simple rhythmic swing. His mental strength enabled him approach all events with the same low key attitude, whether a highly pressured Ryder Cup or a lesser tournament. His mantra was simply “to play as well as I can”.
Gordon Brand Jr was born in Kirkcaldy and lived in Burntisland until he was five, when the family moved south to the Bristol area.
His father, Gordon Sr, had a trial for Bristol City which was unsuccessful but in 1969 succeeded a relative, Tom McNaughton, as head professional of Knowle Golf Club. This entailed the family living next to the course with Brand Jr spending most of his free time there.
He enjoyed playing for the junior team but was not ambitious or especially good, playing off 15 as a teenager. However, that changed when being dropped from the team aged 14 caused him huge disappointment and he determined not only to regain his place but also to be off scratch by age 18, both of which he accomplished.
Success soon followed with wins in the Gloucestershire and South Western amateur championships. His excellent form led to selection for the British and Irish team in the St Andrews Trophy against Europe in 1976, the first of three successful appearances, followed by two for the Eisenhower Trophy team for the World Team Championship in 1978 and 1980. When picked for the 1979 Walker Cup team he was the youngest player in the side.
Soon after turning pro, he signalled his promise playing in South Africa, finishing second behind Gary Player in their PGA Championship before securing his maiden wins on the European Tour. Other important wins on the Tour included the European Open in 1984 and 1993, the latter earning his single largest prize, 140,000 euros.
Disappointed not to be in the 1985 Ryder Cup team, he made sure of his place for the 1987 event at Muirfield in Ohio for the historic 15-13 win, registering a fourball success and a half in his singles match against Hal Sutton.
Afterwards he said: “That was the greatest Ryder Cup team of all time in terms of the calibre of players and wins. I was just lucky to be a part of it.” In a later interview, he commented that he treated it “as another game of golf” and did not allow himself to be carried away.
The hyped-up encounter at the Belfry in 1989 had the tone set when American captain Raymond Floyd introduced his team as “the 12 greatest players in the world”. In the top four ball match, Brand and Sam Torrance were successful thanks to a wonderful bunker shot by Brand on the 18th to clinch the tie against Strange and Azinger to help Europe retain the trophy.
He also enjoyed success on the Seniors Tour which he joined in 2008. He won twice, the Jersey Classic at La Moye in 2010 and the Winston Golf Open at Vorbeck, Germany in 2013. In 2010 he also had five top five finishes and was fourth on the money winners list. Still playing on the Tour, he was due to tee up in the recent PGA Championship.
He was keen on the development of young players and had coached the England under 16s and Gloucestershire and Somerset County boys, to whom he would stress that talent itself was not enough and that hard work was necessary.
A popular figure on the circuit, well known for his sense of humour and liking for occasional pranks, his sudden death has attracted countless tributes including from top players including Justin Rose, Sam Torrance, Stephen Gallacher, Thomas Bjorn and Richie Ramsay.
He is survived by wife Sheena, whom he married in 1983.