They call Barbara Ann Murphy "The Golf Course Lady."

That's not because she spends much time on the fairways, but because she has fought for so long to prevent the Belair Golf Course and Country Club in Bowie from being turned into a housing development.

For two years, Murphy has carried on her struggle to save the country club. The real issue, she says, is preserving open space for the community. She adds, "The golf course is one of the last open spaces in the city."

The target of Murphy's campaign is a proposal by golf course owner Robert Miller to build housing on the 130-acre parcel on Rte. 197 in Bowie.

Murphy, 44, recently helped collect petitions bearing the signatures of 6,000 Bowie residents who oppose destruction of the golf course. The petitions have been submitted to the Maryland-National Captial Park and Planning Commission.

Although the commission tabled the matter until September, when it may recommend that the county buy the golf course, Murphy has not suspended her efforts.

Murphy, who has five children, acknowledges that her original reasons for getting involved in the golf course issue could be called self-centered.

"We (the Murphy family) happen to like the land. Not only that," she says, but "I know that (playing golf) keeps my kids out of trouble. They start playing golf at 8 a.m. and don't get back 'til dark."

Murphy says her oldest son, George Jr., 19, wants to be a professional golfer. George Jr. was "all-conference" at the 1979 Dixie Conference in Faytetteville, N.C. The tournament took place at Methodist College, to which he will return this fall as a sophomore.

Another son, Thomas, 16, this week played in the Insurance Youth Classic State Championship for Maryland at the Hunt Valley Golf Club in Hunt Valley.

In a time when youngsters are finding it convenient to be destructive rather than constructive, Murphy says, her maternal instincts appreciate the recreation offered by the golf course. "We can't afford to lose it."

The golf course issue has made Murphy a community celebrity.

Bowie Mayor Audrey Scott, who supports Murphy's stand on the issue, says Murphy shows a genuine concern about community events.

"She has all the ingredients to make a good public official. She's tenancious and has concern for the community at large.She's positive about Bowie, so I think she'll make a good public official."

But on the question of whether Murphy might run for city council in 1982, Murphy says, "You'll have to ask me that question in two years."

Other Bowie residents who are helping Murphy with the drive to save the golf course say she is a grass-roots activist with unyielding spirit.

"She's super," said Mary Davis, a neighbor who met Murphy through their sons' football club activities.

Dorothy Dolley, another neighbor who met Murphy at a meeting about the golf course, says she supports the fight to preserve the course but she is uncertain what will happen.

"I'm hoping that the city will take it over," she says.

What does Murphy do with her time when she's not battling to persuade city hall, the planning commission or the golf course owner on the issue of open space?

She's often reading the latest best-selling novel or "plutzing" around the house -- her word for doing household chores or gardening.

Murphy says she attends nearly all Bowie city council and planning commission meetings on land use and sometimes testifies, albeit nervously, before those bodies.

"I get nervous sometimes and have to rub a match for good luck. It works. It keeps me calm," she says.

"I don't want to get up there and mess up," she says of her testimony before the commission, which makes decisions on the purchase, sale and use of land in the county.

Murphy, who was born in Yonkers, N.Y., has served as president of the Kenilworth Elementary School PTA and has been a leader in the Boys and Girls Club of Bowie.

George Sr. says his wife saved the club hundreds of dollars by requiring those who used its equipment to return broken equipment for repairs.

"She was probably the best equipment manager the club ever had," he says.

George Sr., who is general counsel for the United Food and Commerical Workers International Union, adds, in praise of his wife, "She's magical. She gets people to do things they would not otherwise do."