After spending the past few years working for The European Tour and playing odd events on the regional circuit in Yorkshire, former Ryder Cup player Gordon J Brand will this week re-launch his top-flight professional career among the 50-plus golfers on the European Seniors Tour.
Brand celebrated his 50th birthday on Saturday and wasted no time in joining the Senior ranks, flying out to the Swiss Alps for the €210,000 Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open, which starts on Friday (August 12) at Golf Club Bad Ragaz.
It is four years since the Yorkshireman last appeared on The PGA European Tour when age curtailed a distinguished career that saw him represent Europe in The 1983 Ryder Cup Matches and form part of England’s winning Alfred Dunhill Cup team of 1987 alongside Nick Faldo and Howard Clark.
“The young guys on Tour would come up and say they remember me knocking in three-footers that hit the back of the hole. As you get older they dribble in the front edge and you realise things are changing. You find the same with every part of the game,” recalled Brand.
For the past two years the Ilkley resident has been a tournament referee on the European Seniors Tour while he counted down the days to turning 50. He always told his bosses he would return to playing at the first opportunity, but the preparations for his Seniors debut have been hit by a recurrence of an old back problem.
“Last week I was due to play in a North Region PGA event at Blackpool. I practised on Monday and when I got up on Tuesday I could not swing a club. The muscles down one side of my back had tightened up,” revealed Brand, who underwent an operation in 1991 to correct a disc problem.
He spent the next two days resting before trying some exercises in a swimming pool. The injury had eased by the weekend and he played at Cookridge Hall Golf Club, near Leeds, on Monday and fired a two under par 70.
“I am swinging it well. Nowadays I structure my practise more sensibly. I practise more what I am going to play.
“I like to think what I am doing is more constructive. Hitting 50 balls instead of 500 should not make a difference if you are doing it correct.”
Greg Norman expressed similar sentiments last month when he made his European Seniors Tour debut at The Senior British Open Championship in Aberdeen. The Australian had just recovered from a major back operation, but the pair share more than medical history. At Turnberry in 1986, Brand was the closest challenger to Norman as ‘The Great White Shark’ swum off with The Open Championship.
A number of big names from the eighties and nineties have recently joined the Seniors Tour ranks. Howard Clark, on-course golf analyst for Sky Sports, and Norman both started playing again this year and Constantino Rocca – the first Italian to play in the Ryder Cup and winner of the 1996 PGA Championship - is expected to come on board in 2006.
But it is the immediate future that concerns Brand, who, with wife Lyn as his caddie, will be hoping to hit the heights in the beautiful surroundings of the Swiss Alps, where Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti is aiming to win the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open for the third year in a row.