A big piece of golfing history was auctioned off on Saturday, along with a large part of Lewis Keller's personal history.
Oakhurst Links, one of the country's oldest golf courses, was sold for $410,000 at the course in White Sulphur Springs. Auctioneer Tommy Garten of Greenway's Real Estate and Auction Inc. out of Covington, Va., said the name of the new owner will remain unknown until everything is sorted out at the bank Monday.
Around 50 people showed up for the auction, Garten said, but he and Keller had hoped for a much bigger final price.
For the 89-year-old Keller, who has devoted decades of his life to the nine-hole course, Saturday brought a sad end to a long and historically significant story.
"It was bittersweet," Keller said. "I was in hopes that someone in the golf world that would have an interest in the history of golf, as I have had, would have bought it. It's very disappointing to find the people that won the bid were not really one iota into golf. I think they are more interested in the property and the house than the golf course."
Keller said he didn't know whether or not the new owner would try to keep the course intact or not.
Oakhurst, which was built in 1884, was home to golf in its primitive form in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Players used clubs made of hickory, carried their own clubs by hand, and tees were made from sand and water.
But in 1910, play at Oakhurst was halted until Keller purchased it in 1959 at the urging of his friend, Sam Snead.
Keller finally reopened the course in 1994, and Oakhurst has been home to the National Hickory Championship since 1998. Hickory clubs and gutta-percha balls could be rented at the course for everyday players.