New Delhi, Oct 14 (IANS) In a male-dominated sport that is snooker, Michaela Tabb is a trail-blazer, much like Allison Fischer, Karen Corr and Reanne Evans who all have breached the bastion to not only set standards as players but also inspire other women to take to the game.
Tabb, a mother of two boys and hailing from the pretty Scottish town of Dunfermline, caused a sensation by becoming the first woman referee at a professional men's snooker tournament and went on to establish another milestone by officiating in the 2009 World Championship.
Here for the Indian Open World Snooker professional ranking tournament that commenced Monday, Tabb, a former pool player who represented Scotland, is now seen as a benchmark for snooker referees, but she had to probably work twice hard to gain recognition.
Tabb was recruited as a snooker referee in 2001 when the world governing body was attempting to refurbish the sport's image. She was fast-tracked to Class 3 within a year and in 2002, she refereed her first professional snooker match.
"A number of people were not sure about a female coming into the game. I'm glad to say the players were very supportive and I proved myself.
"I had to work very hard to win everybody over because maybe they saw it more as a gimmick. So I had to prove that I was up to the job and I could do that. It was very hard for the first couple of years," said the 45-year old Tabb.
It was not long before she made her mark as one of the better referees on the pro tour and in 2003, made her entry into the World Championship at the Crucible. Six years later, she was in charge of the World Championship final where John Higgins beat Shaun Murphy 18-9.
"I have had some amazing matches, but the first final I did was very special. I was so excited that I wasn't nervous. I should have been terrified, but I was carried away by the excitement.
"The appreciation was amazing. I was very lucky because it was one-sided match between Higgins and Murphy," she recalled.
Tabb hoped that other women will follow her footsteps. Currently, there is only one other woman referee on the pro tour, Zhu Ying from China.
Tabb admitted that juggling time between family and her refereeing career was indeed a task, but she has learnt to keep the two apart.
"It was my husband who initiated me into it. I was a mother before I started referring. They had to grow with it and it is my husband who has to look after the children when I'm away.
"Sometime, my mum and dad and my mother-in-law help. I wouldn't have done it without them. My husband works from home. It wouldn't work for a lot of people being a mother of two and keeping the professional commitments, but it works for me.
"My husband has given me such an amazing career. My eldest son (Morgan) is 16 and my youngest (Preston) is 7. I have to box up my emotions. When I'm working, I'm working and when I'm home, I'm a mother," said Tabb.