Serious golfers and others fascinated by suffering may wonder about this chap Guy McQuitty, down there at the absolute bottom of the British Open scoreboard. Just about as low, very likely, as anyone else ever has been in the 115 years of the event.

What sort of masochist shoots 95 the first day of a major tournament and comes back for more?

How badly could a man have played to miss the cut by 31 strokes? To be worse than the next most dreadful competitor by 11 shots?

Well, by the time the ambulance chasers of sport arrived on the scene, a man carrying a rake was closer to McQuitty than anyone except his caddie.

Why else would a man and a rake be shadowing a professional golfer, if not anticipating that McQuitty's next mistake was imminent? And that it would be a whopper.

Sure enough, McQuitty's second shot on the 17th hole -- from the fairway -- hooked wildly and landed in the customers' pathway on the Ailsa Course.

"Cheers," he said when he arrived at his ball.

"Cheers," he said after striking it, badly, and walking ahead.

He'd been there all too often.

If there actually is Quit in McQuitty, none was evident in the man. He took his punishment, on the course and off, with good humor.

The Exeter Club in southwestern England will welcome its assistant pro McQuitty next week, although his price for lessons might drop by a pound or so.

The membership passed the hat and raised what amounted to $375 for his immediate expenses here, and a former member matched it. That happens lots of times for players who suddenly find themselves in the same show with Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros.

McQuitty passed the early-qualifying phase very well, and suggested to his boss that he might also shoot well enough in the final 18-hole test to make the field. Still, he was without transportation -- and clothes, other than what he was wearing -- when he actually did qualify.

He was stylish Thursday, in a light-pink sweater and black slacks, courtesy of Burberry and some others here who learned of his problem and made their duds available. Free.

Lodging for Nicklaus and all the other more glittering names is the stunningly beautiful Turnberry Hotel, a driver or sand wedge from the first fairway depending on the wind.

Lodging for McQuitty is a bed-and-breakfast, in sheep-and-cow country, eight miles from the course.

Incredibly, in light of his being so lousy thereafter, McQuitty hit a drive off the first tee the opening round that Tom Watson would have taken. No questions asked.

The shot bore low and carried a fairway bunker that defines the dogleg, coming to rest just 80 yards from the flag on the 350-yard hole. This with a mighty wind in his face.

McQuitty made par his first hole of his first British Open. And then proceeded to make a mess of things.

Records of awfulness were not immediately available; one incident was. In 1935, a Scottish pro toured the first eight holes at Muirfield in 65. His first four holes were: 7-10-5-10. When he made 10 at the 11th hole and failed to get out of a bunker in four tries at the 12th, he stalked off the course. That's more or less what Andrew P. Broadway did during the opening round this year, withdrawing after being 18 over through 10 holes.

McQuitty didn't. He took his 46-49 medicine -- and came back Friday for what proved to be an 87. For perspective, consider this: McQuitty had as many strokes as second-round leader Greg Norman, 137, and he hadn't teed off on the ninth hole Friday yet.

"Makes you think these guys are in a different league, really," he said.

His recollections of two rounds in the British Open, with high winds, narrow fairways and impossible rough? About the same as a hacker's on courses where you don't putt through a clown's nose. His voice trailed off a lot in bafflement.

" During the 95 I just . . . don't know, really . . . just couldn't keep going. I couldn't visualize especially how to swing the club."

Sound familiar?

"Then this morning I actually was scared to stand over the ball."

Disaster quickly followed that first-hole par. He stroked a putt on the second hole off the green. It got worse, and to force McQuitty to describe all 182 blows gets even reporters five-to-seven in the slammer for assault of mind.

"I wouldn't quit," he said. "Not with the members backing me. You just try to enjoy it, really."

Really?

"Halfway round," he admitted, "I didn't want to be in the Open again. The course was beating me up. Now I realize that was a silly comment."

Of course he'll try to qualify next year.

"Made some money out of it," he volunteered, not counting the pretournament gifts. "Got 150 pounds for second in the region with 139 and 400 here for teeing up ."

Another obscure competitor, lugging his own bag, walked by the area outside the locker room and noticed the newshounds surrounding McQuitty.

"You're a star," he said.

"In the wrong way," McQuitty said.

There was not much more to be added except: "I played like my score said I played." (Imagine anyone insisting: "I hit it a whole lot better than that 42 over par suggests.")

He sighed and smiled, uncomfortable with so much attention and very anxious to escape it.

"Unfortunately, I had a nightmare at the wrong time."