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There's something magical about The Masters - and trust me - I'm not talking about the golf! Sure, it's probably the greatest sporting event I have ever had the opportunity to attend - and I say that assuredly, as I'm not a golfer.

The heavenly landscaped grounds of Augusta National, professional players at the top of their game, the history, the tradition, and a no-cell phone policy all make the trip (though hard to come by) a memorable one. But for me - it's always been about the cheap cold beer and the food.

When I was writing my latest book, A Southern Gentleman's Kitchen, I knew I had to pay homage to the great food and culture of The Masters - so I called in my buddy Dave Haywood, an Augusta, Georgia native, and also founding member of Lady Antebellum to help in my cause.

The following story and recipe are included in the book - pick up a copy here!


I first met Dave on the Internet. I get it, that statement probably requires some clarification. Here we go.

Though we crossed paths at the University of Georgia, it was an email that sparked our initial friendship. You see, my buddy Chris Manning was working with Dave at an accounting firm in Atlanta when the unthinkable happened – Dave decided to quit his job and test his luck on the road as a touring musician.

Along with his childhood buddy, Charles Kelley, the two had been stewing over the idea for years, getting even more serious after college when their songwriting sessions started to produce some serious tunes. Yet, quitting a steady career in accounting to chase the noise was a far departure for the son of a dentist from Augusta, GA. Years later, Dave laughingly tells me that his Momma and Daddy supported his decision as best they could, which meant sending him as many prayers as possible. So, through email exchange, I offered whatever advice I could on touring and booking shows, while calling up a good friend Warren Southall to book one of Dave and Charles' early gigs at Walkers in Athens, GA – selling Warren on the fact that the boys would play for a cut of the door and a few cold beers. What a poor agent I would have made!

After months of touring coffee houses and small clubs, Dave and Charles made the move to Music City, only to have a chance encounter with another songstress one night at Nashville's historic 12th and Porter. The lovely Hillary Scott, along with Charles and Dave, went on to form one of country music's most popular groups, Lady Antebellum. Enough said.

This morning, Dave and I are sitting in my kitchen hoping to accomplish more important things . . . emulating the famous Egg Salad Sandwich served at Augusta National – one of golf's most premier courses located in Dave's hometown. The course is home to the world's finest tournament – The Masters – where the Green Jacket and coveted membership to Augusta National carries both legacy and infamy – par for the course for Southern culture, no pun intended.

It turns out that Dave is quite the expert in this sandwich concoction, having spent his high-school years peddling hand-made egg salad and pimento cheese sandwiches to hungry spectators. Though the sport of golf is always at the forefront of The Masters, it's the humble food behind the scenes that also garners praise, made even better by the fact that sandwiches and beers can be purchased for just a few bucks – a rarity at premiere sporting events nowadays.

Such humbleness and accessibility is exactly the quality that defines Dave Haywood. The man in my kitchen this morning, having sold out arenas from New York to Australia while garnering Grammy's along the way, is the same man that emailed me so many years ago. For Dave, being a Southern gentleman means to be patient, respectful, humble, and professional. It's a quality he practices and lives out in his daily life with his wife Kelly in Nashville, or out on the road entertaining millions of fans.

Egg salad might be the dish on the menu today, but Dave is no stranger to the kitchen. In the same way that he can look at a guitar or piano and see thousands of song ideas, he gets that same satisfaction when looking at a few ingredients. Cooking offers him a different creative outlet than music – one that he practices whenever the opportunity presents itself.

So, after some testing and debate (and a few mimosas), here's Dave and my tribute to sport, food, tradition, and humility. All wrapped up in one delicious bite! Fore!