Brooks Gerardi, the pro at the Red-Gate municipal golf course in Rockville, approached tournament director Ward Burgess before he was scheduled to tee off yesterday in the Middle Atlantic PGA championship at Washingtonian Country Club.

"How hard does it have to rain to call it off?" Gerardi asked.

Without hestitation, Burgess replied, "Very hard."

A few minutes later, as he was about to tee off, John Secco, the assistant pro at Hobbit's Glen, said: "This isn't golf; it's survival."

For five hours yesterday, through fog and steady, sometimes hard rain, a field of 80 pros tried to survive the first day of the 54-hole sectional championship. But when the rain became very, very hard in early afternoon, play was suspended until 8:30 am.m. today.

Twenty golfers -- a fourth of the field -- completed play, with a one-over-par 73 by Al Green the lowest complete round. The other 60 pros, including all the favorites, will resume where they left off yesterday; the best reported score among them was posted by the Naval Academy's Larry Ringer, who was two under on the 18th tee of a roller-coaster round that included an eagle, five birdies and two double bogeys.

Tournament officials hope to play a complete second round on Friday, also, with the third and final round pushed back to Saturday. A number of the club pros complained they would be unable to compete Saturday because of a busy schedule at their jobs.

Dave Leonard, the executive director of the MAPGA, said the tournament committee made its decision based on the amount of rain that had already fallen and the projected forecast.

"It's what's most equitable," said Leonard. "Saturday is on the entry blank as a rain date. You're involved with guys driving 90 minutes to play two holes on the possibility they'll be able to play today. It's unfortunate, but when you get in a weather situation, you can't please everyone."

Green, the leader in the clubhouse, is not actually a working golf pro now. The former pro at Eisenhower and Langston municipal courses took a public relations job with Anheuser-Busch in May. This is his first tournament since then.

"I've been playing socially since then, no competitive type of gold," said Green. "I didn't prepare at all. I'm playing on ability and not on practice."

His game was fairly steady, with three birdies -- all from the 15-foot range -- two bogeys and a double bogey on the troublesome 13th hole, a 376-yard dogleg across a lake with water in front of the green, too.

Green drove under a pine tree on that hole. Then, attempting to chip safely back into the fairway, he dumped his shot into the water.

Ringer also had his problems at the 13th, standing three under par on that tee. "It was just a bad gold shot," was how Ringer described his 2-iron tee ball that plunked into the lake. His second tee ball wasn't much better; the shot hit six feet from land, but skipped on to the bank, giving Ringer a chance to play safe short of the green.

His sand wedge approach still left him 25 feet from the cup. But he ran home the putt for the double bogey. On his five birdies and the eagle, the longest putt he had to make was 10 feet. The other double bogey occured on the first hole, when he overshot the green with a sand wedge and needed two shots to get out of a pine tree.

Despite the rain, Ringer and the other contestants found the greens extremely hard. "Every hole," Ringer said, "you had to hit on the front of the green and hope it got to the back."

The rain was merely the latest setback for the section's premier tournament. The sponsor, the Chesapeake Region Civitan Club, pulled out earlier this summer, dropping prize money from a projected $20,000-added to $3,000-added. With entry fees, the pros are playing for $7,000, the winner receiving $1,000.