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Airline come on board to help game take off

Brian Mair has plenty to smile about these days.

Beaming from ear to ear, like Richard Branson in a toothbrush factory, the PGA in Scotland's secretary unveiled a new, lucrative deal with Virgin Atlantic which, he hastened to add, "commences right now". It was just as well. Bacon butties and freshly percolated pots of coffee for a bunch of grazing golf writers don't come cheap in the sumptuous surrounds of Gleneagles, after all.

Last week in Aberdeen, Mair and Paul Lawrie announced a healthy package of sponsorship and support for the Tartan Tour in a series of deals encapsulating the Northern Open, the Paul Lawrie Invitational and the Ladies' Tartan Tour which, all in, is worth more than £100,000.

Yesterday, at the snow-covered Perthshire resort where the Scottish PGA has its headquarters, the domestic circuit was given another sizeable helping hand with the launch of a "significant relationship" with the global airline company.

The partnership effectively means Virgin Atlantic will be actively involved in a variety of activities within the Scottish PGA, from tournaments and order of merit support through to a range of benefits for club professionals.

A little bit of rebranding will also take place with the Scottish circuit becoming known - in official statements at least - as the Tartan Tour supported by Virgin Atlantic. The company have had a working relationship with the PGA South region since 2008 but have spread its wings north of the border.

They were also the title sponsor of the National Pro-Am which held lavish grand finals in Las Vegas, Mexico and the Bahamas. Now that would be quite a Tartan Tour schedule: a Pro-Am at Easter Moffat one week, followed by a sun-soaked 36-holer in Nassau the next.

Joking aside, the arrangement continues the galvanising process of the professional game here. Mair, who took up the reins last May and is certainly trying his best to inject the Tartan Tour with new vigour, insists there more to come.

"There is a lot going on behind the scenes," he said. "The only thing against us is time; we may not get everything we are working on in place for this year. But there are plenty of things we are working on. We all know that 2014, with the Ryder Cup coming here, is such a big year for Scottish golf. But 2015 will be even more important. That's when the work really starts on building on what we have."

Greig Hutcheon, the reigning Scottish PGA champion, Tartan Tour No 1 and PGA Play-offs winner, added upbeat sentiments. "It's very exciting to have such a big-name supporter," he said. "Things had been a bit quiet on the sponsorship front for a while. But there seems to be a trend of things improving across the board and that can only be good news for us."

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