Justice said Friday he always was hopeful that another buyer would step in. What clinched the deal for him, he said, was getting to know Keller.
"It needed to be done," Justice said. "Mr. Keller surely touches my heart. He's a beautiful person. It would have been such a shame. I purposely didn't go to the auction because first of all I don't do those things. I don't participate in those things. It would have broken my heart anyway."
After the auction sale fell through, Keller and some of his friends arranged a meeting with Justice.
"In his words, there's no other choice," Justice said. "He had run out of options."
It's the latest acquisition for Justice, whose other purchases in recent years include Virginia's Wintergreen Resort; 4,500 acres south of Charlottesville, Va., near the historic Virginia estates of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe; and a six-story building in downtown Roanoke, Va.
In August 2011, Justice announced that he's teaming up with several prominent physicians and a health-care developer to build a $250 million medical facility at The Greenbrier, featuring a sports medicine and rehabilitation center, a cosmetic surgery center with a "lifestyle enhancement academy" and a boutique hotel with 20 VIP suites.
Although he has owned Oakhurst since 1959, it wasn't until 1994 that Keller reopened the course after it had been dormant for more than 80 years. The National Hickory Championship has been played at Oakhurst since 1998.
Oakhurst was first owned by Russell Montague, who became enamored with golf while studying in Great Britain.
Montague and a small group of colleagues held the first competition at Oakhurst in 1888 in the Scottish match-play tradition, predating by a few years the St. Andrews Golf Club of Yonkers, N.Y.
Montague and most of the original members eventually moved away. Play on the course stopped after 1910.
Keller learned about Oakhurst from longtime friend Snead, who spent decades as the head pro at the nearby Greenbrier resort. Keller bought the property to use as a summer retreat and raise horses. He had a vision about restoring the course, but didn't act for decades until some nudging from a golf writer.
Restoration started in 1991 and was done by hand, with newspaper and magazine clippings and course photos serving as guides.
And now with Oakhurst in the hands of only its third owner, Keller will continue to maintain a presence there.
"He's an enormous part of the story," Justice said.