WARREN - Dave Jones will be the first to admit that he's lived a rewarding life. He had a well-paying job before retiring and still has the means to travel around the country frequently.
The biggest bonus for Jones is that he's lived within walking distance of a Putt-Putt.
"If you're driving and miss the lights, it'll take two minutes," said the Warren-native and professional putter. "If you hit the lights, it'll take three."
Matt Bellner wasn't so lucky. At least not at this weekend's Professional Putters Association Northern Open held at the Putt-Putt on Youngstown Rd.
"I drove up 20-something hours straight here," said Bellner, a Longview, Texas resident. "I arrived at 10:30 (Saturday morning), got out of my car, walked to the course and started playing for the 11 a.m. tee-time.
"I have not slept, so I'm pretty tired."
But he's used to it.
On top of being a professional putter, Bellner operates "Mattie 5 Films" and produces commercials and web videos for local companies, like AP Rentals, and 5-Hour Energy - a product with a more national reach. After the long days and rough nights, he's a perfect spokesperson of the energy drink.
After this weekend's tournament, where Bellner currently sits with a 135, he's going to Detroit for a meeting with the marketing department of 5-Hour Energy.
Then, it's off to Kansas, back to Texas, then Virginia and North Carolina for more Putt-Putt tournaments.
"I'm last in every single tournament," he said, laughing. "I don't think I'm last here, though. I'm the world's worst professional Putt-Putt player."
But it's his passion and he's doing something with it. Bellner has been at work on a Putt-Putt movie since November 2011, around the time when he became a professional putter. With heavy-duty video equipment always in tow, Bellner follows the professionals and documents the trips and tournaments.
"You take a guy like Greg Ward - a world champion - and he's playing as much as he can at the top of his game," he said. "That's a great story."
Ward became a pro in 1982 after playing as a youngster in Rocky Mountain, N.C. and Chattanooga, Tenn. He's a two-time national champion, winning in Columbus, Ind. Ward was also a back-to-back Putter of the Decade.
"I saw all these guys playing and traveling all over the country when I was just starting out and I got hooked," Ward said. "I said, I need to get in on the action."
Randy Reeves of Birmingham, Ala., also shares a successful story - and southern charm. He was inducted into the PPA Hall of Fame, last year, and was a 1997 national champion.
"Wherever there's a tournament, I try to be there," Reeves said. "It's a fun hobby and a great lifestyle sharing the camaraderie with these men who become your friends."
Bellner will continue filming through the summer and wrap up the last week of October.
"I'm taking it to a film festival," he said. "God-willing someone will put up some money to help fund it and get these guys some more cash."
A Stephen F. Austin graduate, Bellner moved to Los Angeles and pursued an acting career for 18 years.
"Now I make my living as a professional Putt-Putt player,' he said. "That's why everybody wants to be in the entertainment business - they want to play professional putt-putt."
The documentary-style movie, though untitled, will also focus on the dying breed of Putt-Putt courses. There were nearly 1,000 at one time in the United States. Now, there's less than 50.
"It's like a modern archaeology," Bellner said. "I'm trying to tell that story, too."