For the latest in our series of interviews with personalities from the Tennis Europe Junior Tour, we spoke to Tom Kinloch. A Gold Badge Referee, Tom’s profession takes him all over the world: from the courts of Wimbledon, to Davis Cup ties, to one of his favourite events; our very own Bolton International.
How and when did your passion for tennis begin?
I joined my local tennis club, Whitecraigs LT&SC in Glasgow, at the age of 5 – so it started a very long time ago. I always enjoyed playing the game but was never going to be a star. Whitecraigs has always been a very friendly club and although I moved away from Glasgow some 20 years ago I still retain my membership there and visit it as often as I can. My involvement with the game started here but it has grown and I have been fortunate enough to hold many positions within tennis, including representing Northumberland (where I now live) for 20 years on the LTA Council, being on the Tennis Europe Officiating Taskforce since its inception and currently I am a member of the ITF Rules of Tennis Committee.
What made you decide to become a Gold Badge referee?
I got interested in officiating through my club hosting what was then the Triangular International (Scotland v Ireland v Wales) and there was a need for linesmen. This led to me going on a course and becoming a linesman and chair umpire in 1980, and in 1981 I worked as a linesman at my first Wimbledon. In 1984 I became a referee and in 1986 got my White Badge. However, due to work commitments, I could not give enough time to follow all 3 disciplines of officiating so I decided to concentrate on refereeing. In 1991 I passed my Silver Badge and in 2000 I was awarded my Gold Badge. In the meantime, I sold my family’s business and decided to try to make my living as a referee – financially not the best move but my quality of life increased tremendously and I have been very fortunate in many ways to be the right person in the right place at the right time.
What do you like about being a referee? What do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy so many aspects of refereeing. I have been fortunate enough to visit 47 counties in the world through tennis and have many, many happy memories of them all; the sense of satisfaction when you enter the last result of any tournament is fantastic - be it a Davis Cup tie, a ITF World Seniors Championships (usually with over 500 entrants) or even a local 8 & under (red ball) event. I thrive on the variety of the tennis I do, as this varies from Wimbledon, Davis Cup & ATP/WTA Premier events (Eastbourne) through Challengers, ITF Juniors & Seniors, TE Grade 1 & Summer Cups to domestic events for the LTA. Every event is different every year and as they say, “variety is the spice of life.”
What’s the most difficult part of a referee´s job?
The most challenging aspect, especially in Great Britain, is the weather. As we get rather a lot of precipitation (I do not like using the 4 letter word: R**N) it is always most satisfying to complete an event on time. The other challenge is to keep up with all the Regulations – the Rules of Tennis, for all competition, are the same but each sanctioning body has its own Regulations and interpretations, so there is a lot of reading!
The Junior International in Bolton is a regular stop for you on the Tennis Europe Junior Tour. How is it to referee such a big junior event, and what brings you back each year?
The Junior International Bolton started in 1995, when it was called Teen Tennis and was held in Telford, and I was the referee and still am! It has its own challenges but I feel the biggest one is ensuring everyone gets practice and so, since its inception, I allocate everyone a minimum of 30 minutes practice each day before matches start because we need to use every court for matches once play starts. The pleasure I get from looking back and remembering players who are now Grand Slam champions as 13 or 14-year olds playing at this event is indescribable and it is not just the Grand Slam champions but many other players who have become household names over the years.