Players competing in this week’s Scottish Senior Open held a remembrance ceremony for Gordon Brand Jnr on the eve of the Staysure Tour event at Craigielaw.
The two-time Ryder Cup player, who recorded a top-20 finish in the tournament at the same venue last year, died suddenly at the age of 60 a fortnight ago.
In a private ceremony at the East Lothian course, players paid tribute to Kirkcaldy-born Brand Jnr by hitting a ball from the first fairway at the same time as a piper played Flower of Scotland.
Earlier in the day, major winners Sandy Lyle and Paul Lawrie spoke about Brand Jnr’s sad passing along with defending champion Gary Orr.
“When my wife told me in the morning that Gordon had died, I said, ‘what?’” commented Lyle, who was one of Brand Jnr’s team-mates in the winning Ryder Cup side at Muirfield Village in 1987.
“It kind of hit you like that. If he’d had a long illness, then that wouldn’t have been the case, but it seems he’d just had a week of not feeling good. I was talking to Gary Evans yesterday and I think he was with him that evening.
“It shows you that we need to keep in check with our health, no matter what it is. Even though you might feel all right, you need to be careful.
“I had a medical there about three months ago, which was the Manchester United programme. They do echo sounds, blood tests, all that kind of thing.
“I’ve had the odd medical check over the years in the US or the odd one for insurance purposes, but this one was a good screening.”
Lawrie described Brand Jnr as a “cheeky” chap and said his death was “very sad”.
The Aberdonian added: “I played a lot with him when I first came out. He was a funny, funny guy and a really good player, a really under-rated player.
“Two Ryder Cups, eight tour wins, you don’t do that if you’re not a proper player. He played at the Jean van de Velde event on the Staysure Tour at the start of the year and he wasn’t well that week.
“He said his chest was bugging him and he couldn’t sleep. It was a shock when he died but not at the same time because he had been struggling a bit.
“Just very sad. He was taken away too early at 60, that’s not right. Everyone will remember him. I think cheeky is the best word to describe him.”
Orr said it had been a “shock” for everyone the Staysure Tour, adding: “I had got to know him a bit more the last couple of years.”
In last year’s Scottish Senior Open, Orr held off Englishman Paul Streeter in a nerve-wracking final round to claim his maiden win on the over-50s circuit before tasting victory again in the Paris Legends Championship in his next event.
“I have some nice memories coming back here,” said the Helensburgh man. “The weather is going to be tough again this week, so it is going to be a wee bit of a lottery. But I’ve been working hard and hopefully I can get some decent form going.
“It’s been a funny year as I’ve never really got going. I’ve been a bit and up an down. I’ve not managed to string three good rounds together, so this week would be a good week to start.
“This is about the time I started playing decent last year, so hopefully it will be a similar story.”
Lyle’s only success since joining the senior ranks came in the 2011 ISPS Handa World Championship at Mission Hills in China.
He’s played most of his over-50s golf on the Champions Tour in the US, but is excited about making his debut in the Scottish Senior Open.
“61 years old and making my debut,” he said laughing. “I’m looking forward to it. We’ll just need to battle on in the weather, but it should be a good challenge.
“I am hitting the bally fairly solid at the moment. My scoring doesn’t reflect the way I am hitting it. It’s just a case of getting a few low numbers under the belt.
“This week looks like it is going to be a real fight to the end. But if can get the ball flight down and get the putter working, then I could be there at the end.
“I don’t mind if it is this week or even a nine-hole tournament, I’d love to have a win or a cup to lift above my shoulders. That would be very nice.
“At the age of 61, you always keep in the back of your mind that Tom Watson was just one week off 60 and he almost pulled off the biggest win of his whole career (in the 2009 Open at Turnberry).”