Gary Van Sickle – ORLANDO, Fla.

March Madness and its accompanying NCAA basketball pool that we will be mathematically eliminated from after the first two rounds of play. (As in: “Florida Atlantic? Really?”)

The Masters Tournament is visible on the horizon.

No offense to the stops on the PGA Tour’s Florida Swing, each of which I like for different reasons. This week at Bay Hill is Arnold Palmer’s old home course in Florida, a course whose profile he greatly increased. But the Masters is where golf is played and everyone watches breathlessly. Or something like that. For casual fans, the Masters is the start of the golf season. Some die-hards used to say the season began wherever Tiger Woods first teed it up. Your choice.

I covered my 40th Masters last year and while the Masters is a tradition unlike any other, as CBS’ Jim Nantz minted that phrase, not every Masters tradition is golden.

Case in point: The pimento cheese sandwich.

This food group has legendary status during Masters week at Augusta National Golf Club. I don’t get it. I am not a fan. (Of the sandwich, that is. Big fan of the golf course, as in, Please don’t cancel my press credential.)

Back in the long-ago 1980’s when dinosaurs still roamed the grounds, my Masters tradition was the fried chicken sandwich. It was a piece of fried chicken (there’s a good start!) with a slightly spicy-peppery breading that was made by a dozens of hard-working local ladies. They were delicious, a word that seems redundant in the same sentence as “fried chicken.”

You had to earn your Masters fried chicken sandwich back then. Yeah, this is going to sound like your grandfather telling you how he walked 12 miles each way to school every day, even in the snow and The Hurricane of ’34.

Well, it’s like this: The sandwiches weren’t available near the clubhouse. The nearest concession stand that had them was down by the 11th green. And you had to get there early because they were so popular, they frequently sold out by 1 p.m.

Those sandwiches disappeared more than a decade ago and were replaced by not-homemade-chicken sandwiches that weren’t even a pale imitation. Some enterprising writer researched this topic and learned that when the Masters did a serious concession upgrade, it realized that serving unrefrigerated, homemade fried chicken sandwiches on a golf course was potentially an insurance liability. Yeah, the insurance people ruin everything. Just like the accountants. And Human Resources.

That’s the other thing about traditions. Sometimes they die. Even at the Masters.

But if you’re a Masters pimento cheese aficionado or if you’re just dying to try one (I wish you well and I hope you don’t die trying one), you’re in luck. The Masters started a “Taste of the Masters” offer a few years back in which you can order ahead and receive an assortment of Masters delicacies (using “delicacies” in entirely the wrong way) to your home during tournament week. It’s great for a party or great for Masters-watching or maybe just great for conversation starters. Food from the Masters? You, too, can get it.

I’m not going to oversell this. Especially since the pimento cheese and egg salad sandwiches aren’t on my Hot List of concession foods.

But I’ve got to applaud Augusta National, not always seen as forward-thinking, for giving golf fans a little inside look/taste.

For $179.95, the Masters provides a Large Hosting Kit that serves 12-14. The kit includes 24 ounces of egg salad, pimento cheese and pork bar-B-que (your sandwich ingredients); six bags of Masters-logo potato chips and six bags of bar-B-que potato chips; six cookies; six pecan-caramel popcorns; a sleeve of 25 Masters logo cups (yeah, the $179 might be worth it just for this to one-up your golfing pals); 12 sheets of Masters logo wax paper (what the sandwiches are normally served on); 12 Masters coasters (more logos never bad!) and assorted host kit materials. Buns and bread aren’t included but you know what is? Shipping. It’s free.

A smaller version called The Classic Kit serves four to six devout golf fans and costs $99.95. It comes with only the pimento cheese, six bags of chips, six Moon Pies plus cups, wax paper and coasters.

Taste of the Masters offers delivery from Tuesday, April 5 (that’s before tournament week) through Saturday, April 13 (that’s Masters weekend).

You’ll need to plan ahead to get your order in. There is an additional shipping charge to Alaska or Hawaii and orders can’t be shipped to P.O. boxes.

All the details can be found by perusing

Imagine the one-upmanship your elementary school youngster will gain when he opens his lunchbox at school and pulls out a sandwich wrapped in Masters-logo wax paper! Would giving one of that youngster’s teachers a Masters-logo cup as a gift lead to a better grade? In most states, yes. (But I’m not guaranteeing that.)

Your Masters party could even feature a tournament pool of some kind, not that I’m encouraging wagering. Tell me the pimento cheese spread and the Masters logos aren’t going to be talked about for months, maybe years, after your party.

It’s a good deal. It’s an innovative deal. But it’s up to you.

Me? Anyone know where the nearest Popeye’s is located?