Judy and Dave Soutar, who live in Kansas City, lunch a lot together at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

They're not exactly crazy about airport food and ambience, but they put much time into planning for these brief encounters.

Both are professional bowlers, an occupation that keeps her on the road as many as 25 weeks a year and her husband almost 35 weeks.

"Dave and I basically have to sit down at the beginning of the year and pick and choose our tournaments," she said. "The timing of the tours coincide, but tey're never in the same place.

"So we have to plan to meet at airports. Sometimes one of our planes will be delayed by weather, so we wave to each other in the air and say, 'See you next stop.' Or, he'll bring the car to the airport in Kansas City for me. He'll be flying out as I'm landing.

"I basically go to all of the tournaments because there are fewer than the men have. But if (Dave) didn't take some weeks off, we'd never see each other."

The couple's children from their previous marriage are cared for by her mother in Kansas City, although they go to some tournaments. "They get bored, though," she allowed. "All they see are bowling centers and motels (on trip)."

Judy Soutar discusses life on the pro circuit as she sits in a motel froom across the street from Bowl America Shirley in Alexandria, where the Women's Professional Bowlers Association is staging its national championship this week.

The room, shared with first-year pro Leila Wagner, is cluttered with half-emptied suitcases. A closet is jammed with uniforms and street clothes. Two sets of electric curlers are heating up and makeup bottles cover the bureau and nightstand.

Many of the makeup bottles belong to Wagner, whose father owns a cosmetics franchise that helps underwrite her tour.

Wagner, 19 said that, when asked, she gives cosmetics advice to other women on the tour, which, like the women's professional golf and tennis tours, has become increasingly appearance-conscious in the last few years.

Stereotypes die hard, as many women on the WPBA tour will attest. Bowling "alleys" have been rebaptized as "centers," to emphasize the family nature of the sport -- an estimated 45 million Americans bowl, making it the country's fifth most popular participatory sport.

And to counteract the myth that women bowlers -- or other female athletes -- are bouffanted behemoths, the WPBA press kit points out that a number of the members are models. Other look like models and the tour even boasts a reigning beauty queen, Linda Woodruff, Miss Kentucky USA, who is skipping the Washington-area stop.

"In the 60s, when bowling centers were being built, people decided that if they were going to use women to help promote them, they wanted someone with femininity who could perform and we stive to get that today," said June Llewellyn, WPBA president. "You don't have to be muscular or big to perform this sport."

Llewellyn also hopes that television will take note of this and give the women the coverage that eventually results in higher purses. The men's tournaments were on television 39 times last year, the women only twice, plus two other coed appearances.

"I don't think a lot of people realize that this is the way we make a living," said Soutar. "And it is a very difficult way to make a living."

Soutar, 35, grew up around her parents' bowling center and passed up a college scholarship because she was so smitten with the sprot. She has encouraged her children to try other sports as well as bowling.

During her 18 years as a pro, Soutar estimates she has earned $200,000. Not counting outside endorsements and other bowling-related activities, she said she averages about $30,000 annually before expenses, which can run as high $2,000.

In contrast, Wagner, who dropped out of the University of Washington because "bowling was all I wanted to do," has cashed in on three of her nine tournaments for a total of $2,000.

Without outside contracts, said veteran Pat Costello (not to be confused with Patty Costello on the same tour), many of the women would not be able to stay on the tour.

Costello, 32, said she should have invested in the Bell System because of the phone bills she has run up in talking with her husband, Steve Dain, at their home in Union City, calif.

She and her husband, who is working on his second doctorate, live largely on her income for the time "being, so every penny counts.

Jay Robinson, 36, a professional on the men's tour, says he can "hardly wait for the women's tour to get big so I can quit and my wife can support me. I'll stay home and take care of the baby . . . I'm tired of the life style of a professional bowler." c

Robinson was able to break away from the men's tour this week to watch his wife, Cheryl, 28, compete in the championship here. (Semifinals are on Friday, finals Saturday.)

Like the Soutars, the Robinsons plot a nightmarish schedule that will enable them to see as much of each other as possible.

Not knowing in advance if either will make it to the wire, Robinson takes the precaution of making three flight reservations under variations of their names so they can cut out quickly if they get eliminated earlier then expected in the event.

The pro bowling tours were not designed with marriage in mind, he said. "But it makes for a good marriage because we never see each other and there's no time to argue. So we're still on our honeymoon."