• Alistair Tait

R.I.P. Gordon J Brand


Seve Ballesteros’s idea of the European Tour as one big family wasn’t a concept I bought into earlier in my career. The older I get, the more it seems true.

Especially on a day like today when another member of the family has passed away. Gordon J Brand was just 65 when he died after a short illness. He follows namesake Gordon Brand Jnr to that great clubhouse in the sky. Brand Jnr was just 60 when he passed away last year. Both men take from us too soon.

Ballesteros was famous for his “we are a family, no?” line. There was always a suspicion he was just pushing his own agenda, trying to get as many people on his side as possible. The late Alister Nicol, The Daily Record’s long-time golf correspondent, once related how he’d go into a Seve press interview prepared to simply write a Seve story, and emerge willing to run through walls for the Spaniard.

“He just had that charisma that you’d want to fight for him, even though you knew he was manipulating you. That was the power of the man.”

The Ryder Cup wouldn’t be what it is today if not for Seve’s “family,” we’re all one, idea. He brought a bond to the European team that’s never really been broken, that has helped Europe become the dominant team in the biennial match. Not an easy thing to do when you’re trying to unite a group of diverse nations with different languages and different cultures. Such was Seve's power that he pulled it off.

That sense of family exists. You can almost touch it. Not just players, but caddies, officials, journalists and others who make the tour tick. That sense grows with age. You spend so much time at tournaments with so many people all involved in the same travelling circus it’s hard not to feel part of a wider family. It hits home when we hear the news of a player such as Gordon J Brand passing away.

Gordon could golf his ball. He played on the 1983 Ryder Cup team with Ballesteros, finished second to Greg Norman in the 1986 Open Championship at Turnberry, and finished 5th on that year's European Tour money list. He won the won the 1989 Belgian Open, and five times on the European Senior Tour, including the 2008 Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters at Woburn (pictured).

“We are all saddened to hear of Gordon’s passing, said Keith Waters, the European Tour’s chief operating officer. "We shared the same coach when played together on Tour during the 1980s and I can honestly say not only was he a distinguished player, but he was also universally well-liked.
“Gordon had such a laid-back approach. I don’t think I ever saw him up uptight. He really was so friendly to everyone and he will be sorely missed by all of us who met him and knew him.”

Close friend Mark James added:

“We are very close to him and his family, we are devastated. He was a great source of entertainment; he had a wonderful sense of humour and was always good fun – I never saw a bad side of him at all. He was very highly respected.
“He’s been a permanent fixture in the lives of so many Tour players from the late 1970s and the Senior Tour of the 2010s, he’s going to missed by an awful lot of people. He had a great record as a player, but there were so many facets to his character that made him appeal to so many.”

I’m not going to claim Gordon as the same friend Brand Jnr was, but I spoke to him on a fairly regular basis when he was playing the European Tour. I was fortunate enough to share his company for a couple of meals during my career. I can vouch for his laid back attitude, so laid back he was practically going backwards.

I can vouch for the Yorkshireman’s terrific sense of humour too, albeit far drier than Brand Jnr’s wit. Myself and Lauren St John went to dinner with Gordon during the Dubai Desert Classic years ago. We were in an Indian restaurant in the old part of the city. Lauren and I had a habit of trying to outdo each other when we were colleagues at Today’s Golfer magazine. We were at it again during dinner, trying to one up each other by naming obscure movies we’d seen. You know the films: the ones you feel you have to watch just to prove you’re an intellectual. That’s when Gordon decided to join the conversation. He brought us crashing out of our Ivory Tower when he said:

“I think symbolism and metaphor is the reason I love The Terminator so much.”

We ordered off the menu and the waiter informed Gordon the dish he’d ordered was far too hot for him. He just looked at the waiter and said:

“I come from Bradford.”

You could practically see the wheels in the waiter’s head spinning as he thought about Gordon’s response. He obviously had relatives in the Yorkshire city because he said: “Ok, sir.”

The waiter was correct to give his warning. I sampled the dish and it nearly blew the top of my head off.

R.I.P. Gordon.

#JustSaying: “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Dylan Thomas

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