"It's a beautiful spot. It's wonderful out here. You meet some really great people. You don't see them from one year to the next, you don't send Christmas cards, but [championship director] Pete [Georgiady] does email us when so and so has a heart attack or something and we say, 'Oh, what a shame!' ''
Thompson said the play is unique from any golfing experience.
"The clubs are just entirely different,'' she said. "[The newer clubs] are much, much lighter. The balls are much smaller and much harder. They're not resilient and they don't bounce.
"And you see how rough it is to spot the balls. The spotters are vitally important. It's fun. I really love every minute of it. I wouldn't miss it for anything.''
Caleb Dunn, a 17-year-old from Greensboro, N.C., was one of three teenagers playing on sponsorships from the First Tee of the Triad, which offers after-school and outreach programs to youths in the Winston-Salem and Greensboro areas.
"It's a once-in-a-life-time thing out here,'' said the 6-foot-3 Dunn, who played in the Hickory Championship for the first time. "You've got to play different shots and there's not just one shot you can hit the entire time.
"The ball doesn't go as far and you're not getting any spin and you've got high rough everywhere. You've got to avoid that. You've got to think a whole lot more about shot making. I hope to come back next year. It's a lot of fun out here.''
Oakhurst has been closed for the past three years save for the Hickory Championships, but Keller recently signed an agreement with Richmond, Va.-based Bill Sharp and Associates, which will gradually take over.
Keller said the course will open to the public soon and the new management group is hoping to stage three to five additional tournaments each year. For more information, call 304-536-1884.
"The plan for Oakhurt is to stay open,'' he smiled. "It's to be open to the public from now on.''
The Hickory Championship wraps up today with two more rounds beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkin...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.