Gordon Brand Jr: Ryder Cup winner who broke American golfing hearts
He was a crucial part of the European team that made golf history by beating the US side on their own soil
Although widely known and much-respected in the golfing world on both sides of the Atlantic, Gordon Brand Jr, who has died aged 60, was never quite a UK household name like Nick Faldo or Tony Jacklin. But, playing alongside Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Sam Torrance and Bernhard Langer, the Scotsman helped to win two consecutive Ryder Cups for Europe in 1987 and 1989.
The 1987 event in the US is considered one of the greatest Ryder Cups of all time. The American team had never before been beaten on their home soil and were strong odds-on favourites. But then came the Europeans, led by non-playing captain Jacklin and featuring Brand, a Ryder Cup rookie from Kirkcaldy. The great Jack Nicklaus was the non-playing captain of the opposition.
Apart from taking part in his first Ryder Cup, Brand had an added incentive. The event was held at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, a course designed by Nicklaus, a native Ohian. He had named the course after the famous Muirfield at Gullane, East Lothian, where he had won his first British Open Championship in 1966. That fact stirred Brand: he wasn’t about to lose at a place called Muirfield in a town called Dublin in a nation on the other side of the Atlantic.
What happened that year shifted the balance of power from American to European golf, a balance regularly tilting one way or the other ever since Jacklin’s European team, which also included Sandy Lyle and Ken Brown, beat the Americans 15-13.
Two years later, Brand helped to retain the coveted trophy when the Europeans drew 14-14 with the Americans, who included Tom Watson and Fred Couples, at the Belfry in Warwickshire. Playing alongside his compatriot Torrance, Brand struck a brilliant bunker shot at the 18th in the Friday fourballs to beat the Americans Curtis Stange and Paul Azinger, giving the Europeans a point that would prove crucial.
On his own, Brand won eight times on the European tour during his peak years of 1982-93. He played 18 times in the British Open Championship, his highest finish being tied fifth in 1992 at the original Muirfield, when his pal Faldo won the Claret Jug.
He played only once in any other major, the US Open at Oakmont, Pennsylvania, where he finished 39th, a long way behind the South African Ernie Els. But he went on to win twice on the European Seniors (over-50s) Tour.
He had just played his practice round for the Staysure PGA Seniors Championship at London Golf Club in Kent when he collapsed and died after a suspected heart attack.
Brand was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, in 1958. He added Jr to his name because his father, Gordon Brand, was a leading golf pro at the time, mostly in Bristol, where father and son would later settle. Gordon Jr played for the Great Britain and Ireland amateur Walker Cup team in 1979 before turning pro in 1981. He won his first European PGA event in 1982, beating Australian Greg Norman in the Coral Classic at the Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Wales. He followed that up the same year with victory in the Bob Hope Classic at Moor Park Golf Club in Hertfordshire, just north of London. His last win came in 1993 when he dominated the field at the East Sussex National Golf Club and won by seven shots.
Brand made the top 10 in the European Tour Order of Merit six times. At the time of his death, he still shared the record for most eagles – four – made in a single round on the European Tour, after he shot a course record 62 at the Jersey Open in 1986.
He is survived by his wife Sheena.
Gordon Brand Jr, golfer, born 19 August 1958, died 31 July 2019