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Ron Howard now a proud father at Bethpage Black

Ron Howard follows his son Reed on the

Ron Howard follows his son Reed on the 18th hole at Bethpage Black. (Aug. 25, 2010) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

There was something endearing about the sight of a dad walking every step of the course for two consecutive days, watching his son's first tournament as a pro golfer. So endearing, in fact, that one of Reed Howard's playing partners shook the dad's hand, saying, "I have two young girls and I'm inspired to do what you did."

Reed and his father had the sort of bonding moment you might have seen on some favorite old TV series, like the father-son fishing jaunt at the start of the Andy Griffith Show. It really hit home, knowing that the father following Reed Howard Wednesday was Ron Howard, who played Opie, the son tagging along with Andy Griffith while someone off screen whistled the theme song.

Now an Oscar-winning director, Ron Howard was just a golf dad Wednesday, traversing the hills at Bethpage Black, nervous and proud of the 23-year-old making a first big step on his stage.

"I am just glad he has something that he loves. And he loves the game for all the right reasons," the elder Howard said. "I can't think of anybody who has worked harder in the pursuit of something they care about, in my business or any other.

"It's incredibly gratifying because he has pursued this since he was a young guy with so much dedication. It's gratifying to see him progressing in this game he loves so much," continued Howard, wearing a golf cap and acknowledging that he is "a hapless hacker," a 22 handicap who is "delighted to break 100."

The Howards were living in Los Angeles when Reed caught the golf bug as a 12-year-old. He played every Sunday with Ron and Ron's brother.

"My uncle Clint is about an 8 handicap but he is kind of a golf nut," Reed said after he shot 4-over par 75 Wednesday to finish the first two rounds of the Met Open at 9 over. "I started to get into it, very competitive. As soon as I started to get good at it, I started waking up before school and practicing."

His family moved back to the New York area and he began playing at Greenwich Country Club. He played at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort, then entered Hooters Tour events as an amateur.

When he fell just short of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, he decided to become a pro this week. "I was going to do it anyway and I knew I was going to play in this event, so I might as well do it as a pro," he said.

That was fine with his dad, who had a substantial part in "The Music Man" when he was 8. "My father left a farm to get into the film business," Ron said, referring to his dad, Rance, who moved his family from Duncan, Okla., to Burbank when Ron was 4. "His father had told him, 'Find something you love.' My father always told me, even though I got started at an early age, 'Make sure this is something that you want.' "

So it is up to Reed, who has the family's trademark bright red hair, to do the same.

"I think the game has been great for him, wherever it leads him," Ron said. "It's the discipline of the sport and of course his approach to it, the discipline he demonstrated to learn. The etiquette of the sport, the kinds of conversations he gets into with his foursomes, the people he meets. I think it has been incredibly healthy for him and I hope it takes him everywhere he wants to go with it. I love that he has got the nerve to put himself on the line like that."

When Reed goes to Q School to try for his PGA Tour card this fall, he will have the most famous gallery member. Yes, Ron said, it's enough to make a dad proud and nervous. He added, " More proud."

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