The beginnings of Augusta National Golf Club’s famed pimento cheese sandwich could be traced to an Augusta family’s kitchen.
In the late-1940s, Hodges and Ola Herndon managed food and drink concessions for the Masters Tournament. The couple prepared sandwiches in the kitchen of their house on Kissingbower Road in Augusta. Their son, Tom Herndon, drove a delivery truck full of sandwiches to the golf course.
Whether the Herndon’s pimento cheese was the first of its kind for the Masters is still up for debate. Nevertheless, it was highly regarded.
“To this day, I hear compliments on the egg salad and pimento cheese sandwiches,” said Tom Herndon, who has retired to Saint Simons Island, Ga.
The Herndons’ food service was documented in a letter dated April 12, 1948, and signed by Masters co-founder Bobby Jones and chairman Clifford Roberts.
“This year both of us happened to have heard a number of complimentary remarks regarding the good service and food you provided,” the men wrote in the letter. “We were particularly pleased to learn that you could provide a really good sandwich for twenty five cents.”
The original letter is kept in a lock box and a framed copy is displayed in Tom Herndon’s home.
Hodges Herndon was a veteran of the food business. He owned a small cafe on Broad Street in downtown Augusta before running food operations at Oliver General Hospital, a wartime institution for servicemen that was originally the lavish Forrest-Ricker Hotel.
Roberts interviewed Herndon, who offered to sell sandwiches to tournament patrons for a quarter, said Tom Herndon.
Hectic preparation of pimento cheese, egg salad and ham sandwiches started at daybreak in the family’s kitchen. Hodges Herndon acquired a meat slicer, extra large bowls and other commercial cooking equipment to help with the work, and his wife recruited friends to help assemble the sandwiches.
“They enjoyed it. It was hard work for everybody, of course,” Tom Herndon said.
Several times a day during the tournament, he traveled up Berckmans Road to deliver sandwiches to the course.
Tom Herndon recruited friends from the Phi Delta Theta fraternity at the University of Georgia to help sell food and drinks from several small wooden concession stands on the course. He asked the head professor at UGA’s business school for the week off from class.
After about a decade serving tournament patrons, the Herndons stepped aside as Masters attendance grew. Hodges Herndon later managed the Augusta Country Club.
Tom Herndon still reminisces about his parents’ legacy. When he attends the Masters, he’s amazed the pimento cheese sandwiches sell for $1.50.
“Masters continues to be a highlight of the year for my family,” he said.
As for the family’s pimento cheese recipe, he said he’s not sure what became of it.