SCOTLAND are quite deservedly recognised as the dominant force in snooker today. Although some of our players have struggled badly in this week's Embassy World Championships, we can still claim to have three of the world's top 10 players in Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Alan McManus, with the former ruling the world - in snooker terms at any rate - for near on a decade.

It wasn't always like that, though. Indeed up until 19 years ago Scotland had no professional snooker player at all. Eddie Sinclair changed all that.

At the relatively old age of 42 he became the first Scot to be recognised as a professional by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, the game's trade union.

For Sinclair, it brought an end to the years of slugging away as an amateur, in which time he chalked up an incredible six Scottish titles, with his money earned as a long-distance lorry driver and then on the riggs in Sullom Voe, off Shetland.

With the barrier down, several more Scots followed suit in the early 80s, most notably Jim Donnelly and Ian Black. It was against the latter that Sinclair enjoyed his first, and only professional career victory, in the 1982 Scottish Championships.

Although he agrees that it was a major career highlight, he points to victories against two true legends of the sport - Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry - as his most satisfying.

''I beat Steve 5-2 in the World Cup when he really was at his peak, that was without doubt my biggest career win.

''When I beat Stephen (5-2 in the second round of the British Open) he was only 19 but even then I knew he would be special, he played some terrific shots.''

He also managed to qualify for the World Championships once in his career, in 1984, and although he recalls it as a ''great experience'', the result against Kirk Stevens was one to forget.

He lost 10-1 to the Canadian, but was at pains to point out: ''I lost eight black-ball finishes but I really enjoyed it. There was a full house with Alex Higgins playing on the other table.''

Sinclair was forced to give up the sport professionally five years ago after finally succumbing to a persistent foot problem. Reflecting on the changing face of the game, the 60-year-old, who stays in Knightswood, Glasgow, opined: ''There's a lot more money involved these days and there's a greater opportunity for younger players to come through.

''It would be good to play nowadays with all that money that's going about but I don't worry about it too much. I do think that the game is pretty good just now with all the young guys attacking all the time, the way I used to play myself.''

Now retired from work, Sinclair is still heavily involved in the game and finds the time to play most days at the Cue Club. ''I'm still keeping my hand in and playing not too bad,'' he self-assesses.

There is also a possibility that in the near future he will be competing in a seniors tour. ''There's been talk for some time,'' he says, ''but the sponsors are holding things up.''