U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange acquitted himself well on the first day of the Anheuser-Busch Classic in Williamsburg, Va., which was dominated Thursday by journeymen players seeking a breakthrough victory.

Dick Mast, who has lost his PGA Tour card three times since first qualifying in 1973, fired a bogey-free 7-under 64 Thursday for a one-stroke lead over Tom Purtzer, Tom Byrum and Bill Buttner.Jerry Pate, the 1976 U.S. Open champion and 1982 Tournament Players Champions winner who is coming off six years of semiretirement, joined Larry Rinker, Charles Bolling and Clark Burroughs two strokes off the pace at 66. A total of 82 golfers were at par or better through 18 holes.

Strange, who lives at Kingsmill and is the club's touring pro, posted a 3-under 68. Strange won the U.S. Open in a playoff against Nick Faldo. Defending Anheuser-Busch champion Mark McCumber also delivered a first round 68.

The leaderboard illustrated that the PGA Tour is teeming with golfers struggling to establish themselves. In fact, Pate, who has eight titles, was the only one of the top eight finishers Thursday to have even one PGA Tour title to his credit.

Rinker pleaded for respect for the dozens of golfers who toil in virtunal anonymity trying to earn enough money to live on playing on the PGA Tour, while the sports' stars bask in the spotlight.

"I just wish there would be some times that the media would give a break to the guys that have played on the tour for a long time who have not been winning tournaments," Rinker said. "They're not the Lanny Wadkins, Curtis Stranges or Greg Normans, but they're guys who are very good and make their living doing it _ and it's a hard thing to do."

"You might not be winning the tournaments, but they're making a pretty good living and they have been really successful at what they do," Rinker added. "They're in the top one percent of the golfers in the world. It's tough. You see guys doing this who run out of money and have to go out and get a job."

--- At Indianapolis, on a day when the toughest opponent for many golfers was the heat, Juli Inkster scorched the course in the first round of the $400,000 Mayflower Classic.

The Rancho Murieta, Calif., golfer made four birdie putts and an eagle Thursday for a 6-under-par 65, her best round this year and the lowest at the 6,124-yard Country Club of Indianapolis since Beth Daniel's 65 in 1982.

"I hit the ball real solid," said Inkster, looking for her second victory this year and 10th since joining the tour in 1983. "I had a lot of chances at birdies and hit some good putts. Some went in and some didn't."

Seven golfers were three strokes behind Inkster, including defending champion Colleen Walker, who was 4-under until she three-putted No. 18 for a bogey five. A birdie on that same hole gave her the championship in 1987.

The 18th hole was changed to a par 4 from a par 5 for this year's tournament. That gave Walker trouble.

"I can't hit the driver off the tee," she said. "I have to hit a 3-wood because of the angle."

Also 3-under were Sally Quinlan, Tammie Green, Donna White, Cathy Johnson, Terry-Jo Myers and Betsy King. Nine others were another stroke back at 69, and 14 players were at 70.

--- And at Kenmore, Wash., Chi Chi Rodriguez, who has claimed 11 victories in less than three years on the PGA Seniors Tour, is defending his title in the $300,000 GTE Northwest Classic.

Bruce Crampton, winner of the inaugural GTE Northwest in 1986, also was in the 72-man field when play began today.

They will be sharing the spotlight with local favorite Don Bies on the 6,996-yard, par-72 Inglewood Country Club course.

Bies is a Senior Tour rookie who turned 50 last December and became a winner after only 12 tournaments, hitting the top three weeks ago in the Northville Invitational at Jericho, N.Y.