Tartan Tour prepares for take-off with Virgin deal

THE Tartan Tour is set for take-off this season after a triple boost from Paul Lawrie was followed by Virgin Atlantic’s appointment yesterday as associates of the PGA in Scotland.

Tartan Tour No1 Greig Hutcheon with Virgins Nicola Lee and Louise Dickson. Picture: Andy Forman

The new partnership, which involves a “significant investment”, will see the airline involved in all aspects of the Gleneagles-based organisation’s activities throughout this year.

It marks the domestic circuit coming out of a period of mild turbulence and, although yesterday’s announcement was made at a snow-covered Gleneagles, PGA in Scotland secretary Brian Mair is hoping clear skies lie ahead.

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“I am genuinely excited because this is a fantastic piece of news,” he said. “Securing this partnership, which will see the circuit rebranded the ‘Tartan Tour, supported by Virgin Atlantic’, is not only good for our tournaments. It will also enable us to develop and support other aspects of services to our members and I think that’s the key.”

Virgin Atlantic’s first venture into Scottish golf follows its domestic service Little Red starting last year to operate regular daily flights from both Edinburgh and Aberdeen to London Heathrow.

Richard Branson’s company has been involved in a similar partnership with the PGA’s South Region since 2008 and also sponsors the PGA National Pro-Am, the final of which has been held in the likes of Las Vegas and the Bahamas.

“This is a great opportunity to work with a brand that will give the Tartan Tour a real lift in terms of profile and presence,” added Liam Greasley, the PGA’s director of regions and membership.

The Virgin boost comes on on the back of announcements last week of initiatives in tandem with Lawrie and Tartan Tour No 1 Greig Hutcheon yesterday expressed his delight.

“These are very exciting times for the Tartan Tour and it’s great to have such a big name supporter on board,” said the Banchory player, who topped off a memorable 2013 campaign by winning the PGA Play-Offs in Turkey.

“This deal won’t just benefit those of playing on the tour, it will also benefit club professionals and golf club members, so it is fantastic news.”

A stalwart of the circuit over the past decade or so, Hutcheon highlighted the “huge variety” of players on the Tartan Tour these days. “We’ve got teenagers in training up to older boys like Robert Arnott, who has just won his card for the European Senior Tour,” he added.

“There are some great female players as well. Heather MacRae, for instance, has been naming and shaming when she’s beating us, so that’s keeping us on our toes.”