There was a touch of irony when the rabbit test came back positive. The father is a rabbit, too, you see.

Bill Calfee is one of perhaps 250 nonexempt players on the PGA Tour, rabbits, who must qualify each week for the tournaments in which they play.

"I haven't been home in four weeks," Calfee said. "If I had a normal 9-to-5 job, I'd be going through it with her. This way, it's like my best friend is pregnant."

Calfee, who was all-America at the University of Maryland, has a sponsor's exemption to play at the Kemper. But Susan, who grew up across the street from Congressional, will not be there.

"It's a real gyp to miss watching him play his best golf so far on the tour," she said. "I'd love to witness it. Plus we're missing all that mommy, daddy stuff of a first pregnancy, the baby kicking . . . it's a real bummer."

Whatever you do, don't send a stuffed bunny when the baby is born in September.

You think of rabbits and you think of furry, little animals, sneaking furtively into the cabbage patch, eating up all those luscious greens.

Maybe that's what Sam Snead had in mind when he saw all those young golfers scurrying around the courses and pronounced them rabbits.

Or maybe it was the sight of them hacking away in the rough, sometimes known as the cabbage.

Perhaps it was the prospect of them nibbling at the lettuce -- as in prize money -- usually reserved for established stars.

Susan Calfee says she "is a lot more comfortable not being known as Mrs. Rabbit, but it really sums up what you do: you really hop, and hop, and hop and hop and hop, all over the country."

It's no wonder that her husband finds the name "degrading," and no wonder that it has stuck.

Calfee and many of his compatriots prefer the tartly nondescript classification: nonexempt. Nonexempt players must qualify for each tournament, either by making the cut the previous week, or through Monday qualifying.

Heaven is a yearly exemption: there are two ways to get there: winning a championship or finishing in the top 60 money winners.

Right now, Calfee is 62nd in official winnings, with $28,000. With ancillary income, $1,000 pro-ams, bag endorsements, a contract with Michelob to do some outings with customers, Calfee figures he can make $70,000 by the end of the year.

He is 30, about to become a father, been on the tour almost four years and on the road 220 days during each of them. He says if he doesn't finish in the top 60 this year, "I'm going to look for something else to do."

Nonexempt players must earn $8,000 their first year on the tour to keep their PGA card, and $12,000 each year after. By the end of the season, many of them have to worry not just about feeding themselves, but earning enough to stay on the tour.

It costs perhaps $30,000 a year to travel the tour. And to a man, the golfers say, "If you eat like a hot dog, you'll play like one."

Sometimes you have no choice.

Peter Teravainen, a Yale graduate with a degree in economics has spent his first four months as a professional golfer living out of his van, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

He is not so angry at his father anymore, who made him go to college at Yale instead of one of the golf factories. If he doesn't make the required $8,000 this year, he says he may go into business. "So far," he says, "I haven't made a penny."

Tom Jones, 25, came off the assembly line at Oklahoma State University in 1977, a four-time all-America at a two-time NCAA golf championship school.

He was at the top of his class at qualifying school. It was going to be a cinch. Then he missed qualifying three times in a row. He made it into the Crosby, but missed the cut. Then he started thinking about going home.

"Anytime you're at the top of the league in college, and all of a sudden you're at the bottom, it gets real depressing" he said. "You get in late Sunday night and call for a courtesy car to pick up and they say, 'Who?'

"There are times you're just sitting there, just wanting to go home. But it's almost harder to come home than stay out there where no one expects you to do anything. At home, you're the greatest. You're supposed to be knocking off Tom Watson."

But at a time when the public is not on a first-name basis with many tour winners, the idea that an unknown could knock off Tom Watson is what keeps many rabbits going. "I always thought it would be funny, to put a sack over my head, and turn up at the tournament as the unknown golfer," Jones said.

Like most rabbits, Jones has a contract with a group of sponsors who foot the bill for his travels along the bunny trail. The sponsors are often friends, in-laws, thoughtful alums or wealthy backers willing to pay for part of the action, any action.

The golfer plays for a percentage of his winnings, until he wins enough to sponsor himself. Ron Terry is the club pro at Edgewood, Md., a native of Havre de Grace. He, too, has a sponsor's exemption to play the Kemper.

Terry's 20 sponsors, with whom he signs an annual contract, "put up about $20,000-$30,000 each year." So far this year, he has earned $2,500, and is 151st on the money list.

He doesn't even think about the possibility of losing his card. He has made some swing changes. Things should be looking up.

Terry is one of eight black golfers on the tour, six of whom are nonexempt. He says he "would like to be the first major black winner of the tour. For a black golfer to win a championship," he said, "it would mean an awful lot of money. There would be some big advantages."

He best finish to date was 12th in the 1979 Pleasant Valley Classic.

Terry sounds like a man who has found the way. This is it. He is sure.

That kind of certainty is God given, as sure as a putting touch. For many rabbits the lack of certainty, about where they will be next week, where they will be next year, whether they can belong on the tour is what makes the tour a purgatory.

Being a rabbit, says Susan Calfee, means never sending out your dry cleaning before Friday because you don't know where you'll be by the end of the week.

Unless, of course, it's just the next Holiday Inn.

Calfee, who was fifth at the Bay Hill Classic and only has had to qualify three times this year, said, "It's harder to qualify on Monday than it is to make the cut. It's like playing two tournaments a week. You get up a 6 a.m. on Monday, and you go out to the course. You're there to try to make some money but you're not even guaranteed a chance to make any.

"When you're exempt, you can schedule the whole year. You can plan for time to take off. You've got some continuity. You know what to expect. When you qualify every week, you don't know what's going to happen. If you miss the cut, you don't know what you're going to do. It's very stressful."

So much so, that last fall, Bill Calfee "went to see a counselor for one session to talk about the tour. She said she thought I was pretty together. We talked about some ways of dealing with the stress. She suggested trying to regulate my time more. When I'm at the golf course, to work on that, and to have some quality time off the course for the relationship."

Calfee says he thinks most golfers find the idea of counseling too threating to consider. But Jones says a lot of them could use some help. "There's guys running around insane," he said, "that should be locked up. I've seen probably three guys, I guarantee, I'd be afraid to be around at the end of the year. Their nerves have got to go."

These days, Larry Degenhart finds his hands a little shaky when he goes to get his putter. In two weeks, Degenhart will lose his PGA card, the thing he wanted most in the world, for the second time.

Degenhart, who got his card in June 1978, has not played on the tour since October. He can't afford to. "Tom Kite told me, 'If you've got your card, you've got no problems.' Well, I got my card, and all I've had is problems," he said.

Degenhart has had sponsors for only six months of the last two years. "I wasn't a big college player and I'm not from a wealthy family," he said. I'm not a member of a country club. I don't have the connections."

The first six months on the tour, Degenhart worked part time at a furniture warehouse, driving a forklift to pay his way to tournaments. He had sponsorship for the next six months but did not earn the required $8,000 to stay on the tour. "The sponsors said, 'Go to tournament school -- we're behind you'," he said.

He went back to school in May 1979, got his card, and his sponsors let him go. "They had put up $12,000 and I had only made them back $5,000," he said. gIn June 1979, he decided to go it alone, with $1,000 of his own money.,

That summer, Degenhart missed qualifying 11 weeks in a row. Five times he found himself in playoffs at the end of the qualifying tournaments for the last places in the field.

"I went to Memphis and got in a playoff and didn't get in. I flew to Chicago where a guy said go to Quad Cities. I got in another playoff, and got my only birdie on the first hole of the playoff and everyone else birdies it. I got in the tournament but missed the cut by a shot," he said.

He went back home to Dallas, where he met some sponsors who offered to pay his way to Hartford. He went, got in another playoff and missed again. The sponsors never put the money in the bank.

He used a $300 check from Dunlop for using their balls to pay his way to Westchester where he played in his fourth playoff, got in the tournament, but missed the cut.

"Now, I'm traveling with my buddies," he said. "I'm sleeping in Jack Ferenz's van. Sometimes I stayed in their hotel rooms and made the bed back up in the morning so the motel wouldn't know.

From Westchester, he went to Pinehurst where he played in his fifth playoff. Five golfers in the playoff made the tournament. He was sixth.

The next week, he drove to Pleasant Valley, his mind going crazy, and forgot to "commit" himself to the tournament by the 6 p.m. Friday deadline.

So he went home. A sponsor offered to pay his way to the Texas Open. He didn't qualify. He caddied for a friend instead. "But some lady in the group recognized me, and offered to sponsor me for two more weeks," he said.

In Pennsylvania, he missed the cut. In Orlando, at the team championships, he didn't qualify.

"End of career," he said.

Maybe."If I had played one solid year, and then I did this, I'd say, 'Okay, I'm not good enough.' But you can't play golf when you're worrying about your car being repossessed. This has knocked me down a lot. My nerves are pretty bad," he said.

"You hear all these stories about drinking on the tour. You do a little drinking and stuff. You travel 1,000 miles and miss qualifying and do it for 10 weeks in a row, you're a vegetable."

How much drinking?

"Enough," he said. "When you're on the tour, you're a big star. They say have a beer, have some food, have another beer. It all happened so fast, I didn't realize it till I was off the tour."

Degenhart, whose best finish during his two years as a pro was 45th at the Tallahassee Open in 1977, now is teaching at the Briar Hall Country Club in Briar Cliff Manor, N.Y., and dreaming of returning to the tour.