It’s quite the talent to play golf competitively and keep a laid-back personality at the same time.

Midway senior Mia Ayer seems to have no problem maintaining that demeanor. Of course, she wants to win tournaments. But the pressure of keeping her name atop the leaderboard doesn’t seem to faze her, and the cool-as-ice mentality has carried her far in her career.

“I’m pretty good at just getting over stuff on the golf course and moving on, and focusing on the next shot,” Ayer said.

But she’ll admit there’s a hint of pressure from this year’s Class 6A golf tournament, as it’s her last chance to win it all.

The Panthers’ star golfer begins her third attempt to win a state title Monday at Legacy Hills Golf Course in Georgetown, which will be her final high school event before taking her game to Notre Dame next season.

“I guess I am feeling a little more pressure than the last two years I went, but I’m just going to try and have fun with it.” Ayer said. “It’s my last time, so there’s pressure, and I am just trying to have a good time and enjoy it.”

Ayer’s path to the state tournament began with a two-day 146 at this year’s district meet at Cottonwood Creek. She returned to the same course for the regional round and placed second among individual qualifiers with a 150.

That reserved her spot at state, even though she would’ve liked to see lower scores.

“It was pretty mediocre, but that’s alright,” Ayer said. “I’m working on my game.”

Ayer will see plenty of familiar faces from the regional meet at Legacy Hills, including defending state champion Lake Travis and 2015 second runner-up Montgomery, which carded an 8-under team score on the final day of the regionals.

More importantly, she gets another crack at a Legacy Hills course that gave her quite a challenge one year ago.

Coming off an eighth-place finish at state as a sophomore in 2014, she aimed to place even higher on the second go-around. But she carded a 9 on the opening hole of the second round to slow down her leaderboard climb and finished in the middle of the pack with a 162, 14 strokes higher than her score the previous year.

“I would really like to avoid that kind of thing Monday and Tuesday,” Ayer said. “But if it happens, it happens, and hopefully I’ll have my game good enough so that I’ll be able to recover from that and hopefully salvage a good round from that.”

Now in her final year of high school, Ayer’s talent on the course is no secret, inside and out of Texas. She’s No. 36 in the country on the Junior Golf Scoreboard rankings and No. 53 on the American Junior Golf Association circuit, the consensus top junior golf tour.

So her final year before heading off to college has been more about focusing on the mental side of the game. Building confidence, approaching each hole with positivity and not letting a bad shot turn into a dismal round.

It appears to be working.

“Mechanics-wise, there’s always room for improvement there,” Ayer said. “When I fix something, something else needs improving. It’s always a battle there, but mentally I feel like I’ve definitely become more confident in myself and I’ve become less fearful of tournaments. I used to be pretty skittish about tournaments, and I feel like I’ve gotten a lot more confident and I believe in myself a lot more on the golf course now, which is nice.”

Midway girls golf coach Harvie Welch has overseen Ayer’s development during the high school season, watching her rise to become a leader in the Panthers’ program.

He knows where his exceptional senior can make the biggest impact on the 6A field — the green.

“It’s the putter sometimes — if she doesn’t putt as well it might be a 74 to 77,” Welch said. “If she’s putting well and makes some putts, she’s pretty capable of getting down into the 60s. That’s what she’ll need at state to compete.”

It’s also what she’ll need to excel at the collegiate level. In order to compete in tournaments for Notre Dame, she’ll need to be among the top five qualifiers from her team to earn a spot in the event lineup.

With the Irish currently ranked in the high 40s nationally, it won’t be an easy task, especially for a freshman. But the opportunity to continue her golf career while getting an education from one of the nation’s top academic institutions is well worth the challenge of cracking her team’s top five.

Ayers chose Notre Dame over SMU and Illinois.

“I visited all three schools multiple times, and I just really liked Notre Dame’s vibe,” Ayer said. “It was smaller, but it wasn’t stiflingly small. It was really nice and homey, and I really felt great vibes from it. And their academic program is really good, and that’s what I’m aiming for. I’m definitely not aiming to go pro. I want a good degree and go to graduate school.”

Once the state tournament is over, Ayer can finally take a breather from the grind of year-round golf between AJGA events and her obligations to Midway. She’ll play in only three tournaments this summer before packing her bags for South Bend in the fall.

“Senioritis, I guess,” she said, laughing.

For the next two days, Ayer’s goal is simple: just play good golf, and represent Midway with a pair of consistent, mistake-free rounds.

Can’t play it any cooler than that.

“I just want to go out and feel like I played solidly,” Ayer said. “I’m not really playing to beat anybody in particular. I’m not playing for a trophy or anything. I just want to go out and feel like I played well, myself, and I focus well and I hit the shots that I wanted to, and go out and feel good about it.”

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Central Texas state golf qualifiers

Class 1A girls

April 27-28 at Lions Municipal Golf Course, Austin

Iredell team: Hannah Fowler, Ally Johnson, Kyra Coffell, Madison Obburn, Savanna Potter

Medalist: Kira Hackaug, Oglesby

Class 2A girls

April 25-26 at Roy Kizer Golf Course, Austin

Hamilton team: Kameron Makandles, Paige Dejong, Julia Whitt, Kodee Crouch, Haley Payne

Dawson team: Lauren Hayes, Sophie Hammerer, Kassidy Cehand, Megan Freeland, Andrea Slade

Medalists: Hanna Williams, Crawford; Randa Norton, Meridian

Class 3A girls

April 27-28 at Grey Rock Golf Club, Austin

Cameron Yoe team: Keagan Galvan, Alexis Magre, Tori Kenney, Julia Harwell, Jazmin Vaculin

Class 4A girls

April 25-26 at Onion Creek Golf Club, Austin

Medalist: Steelie Priest, Lorena

Class 6A girls

April 25-26 at Legacy Hills Golf Course, Georgetown

Medalist: Mia Ayer, Midway

Class 1A boys

April 27-28 at Lions Municipal Golf Course, Austin

Iredell team: Colton Fowler, Adrian Benitez, Garett Fletcher, Micah Wellborn, Landry Proffitt

Class 2A boys

April 25-26 at Roy Kizer Golf Course, Austin

Medalists: Bryson Nail, Mart; Colton McCeig, Rosebud-Lott; Jax Horton, Moody

Class 3A boys

April 27-28 at Grey Rock Golf Club, Austin

Medalists: Preston McGinty, Bruceville-Eddy

Class 4A boys

April 25-26 at Onion Creek Golf Club, Austin

Medalist: Chase Allison, Robinson

Class 6A boys

April 25-26 at Legacy Hills Golf Course, Georgetown

Medalist: William Paysse, Belton

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