They are known as "rabbits," although very few manage to run off with the big carrot: first-place money in a Pro Bowlers Association tournament.

In truth, they are PBA members on the fringe of the regular tour. Their nonexempt status is the result of never winning a tour title or finishing the year among the top 20 money winners or among the top 64 point accumulators.

Steve Cook of Roseville, Calif., and Emmett Shutes of State College, Pa., are two of the exceptions. Each earned a berth in one of last season's tour stops.

To accomplish that, they had to bowl qualifying games before the tournament and beat out fellow rabbits for whatever number of slots existed after exempt members of the PBA hit town.

The duo finished the season still holding on to exempt status, though neither won a tournament.

The current winter tour has started to provide a climax to the rabbits-toriches sage of Shutes and Cook, Shutes is fifth on the money-winning list ($22,725) and Cook is ninth ($16,790) after nine tournaments. Each has won a tournament: Cook took the Ford Open in Alameda, Calif., and Shutes captured the Showboat Invitational in Las Vegas.

Both are on hand for the $100,000 Fair Lanes PBA Open at the Fair Lanes alleys on University Boulevard in Hyattsville this week. They start play along with 142 others today at 9 a.m.

Seventy-one rabbits qualified earlier in the week to join Shutes, Cook, Carmen Salvino, Boy Buckley, defending champion Butch Soper and 69 other exempt bowlers in vying for the $10,000 first place prize.

Mark Roth, the current leading money-winner who set records last year for both cash ($134,000) and titles won (eight), will not be on hand. He, Marshall Holman, Dick Weber and Nelson Burton Jr. are in Hollywood filming a segment for Fantasy Island.

Televised finals of the tourney start at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.