Future of Oakhurst Links in doubt

A view of the scenic Oakhurst Links in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

A view of the scenic Oakhurst Links in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Oakhurst Links is back on the market. The historic White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., course that opened in 1884 was sold at auction July 28 for $410,000. That amount, however, was not enough to satisfy Sonabank, which holds a note on the property.

Lewis Keller, who has owned Oakhurst Links since 1959, said that one of his sons took out a loan five years ago to upgrade the property. Keller said that the bank requires $700,000 to pay off the loan. He said the bank has not set a deadline, but acknowledged that “something has to be done quickly.”

Asked if the bank was prepared to foreclose on the property, Keller said, “I think they will.”

A message left with the bank’s attorney was not immediately returned.

Oakhurst Links, a 30-acre, nine-hole property, is one of America’s oldest golf clubs. Golf is still played there using hickory clubs and gutta-percha balls. The course annually hosts the National Hickory Championship.

Keller acquired the property at the urging of the late Sam Snead, a longtime friend and frequent golf partner, and revived the old links in 1994 with help from architect Bob Cupp. Keller has tried repeatedly in recent years to sell the property, with no success.

The auction was a last-ditch effort to sell the property and pay off the bank. But Keller termed the auction “a disaster.” The highest bid was

made by an unidentified Wheeling businessman. Keller and Pete Georgiady, who runs the NHC tournament, said their understanding was that the highest bidder was a relative of Bill Campbell’s, the legendary West Virginia amateur.

Keller now is trying to find a white knight or a coalition of buyers who can pay $700,000.

“The Kellers will get nothing out of it. Nothing,” Keller said. “All of the work and the money goes down the tube, but it would preserve Oakhurst where it can be run and managed as the history of golf.”

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