One look at the bloodlines of LaPorte junior Ariana Mendez-Sota and it's easy to see why the Spanish exchange-student loves to play golf.
The cousin of Sota's mother was the late Seve Ballesteros, member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and winner of five majors. Her grandfather is Ramon Sota, who tied for sixth in the 1965 Masters. He owns a golf school in Spain, Club de Golf Ramon Sota.
"I feel the spirit of golf," said Mendez-Sota, who is a native of Pedrea. "I didn't really play with Seve, but I learned the basics from my grandfather.
"It's in my family. I feel like I have some pressure on me since I have to represent my family."
Mendez-Sota is also in a pressure-packed situation in the United States. She's only in the country for one year, and this is her lone shot to play high school golf.
"I haven't really played with a team before," Mendez-Sota said. "I was kind of nervous when I started. I couldn't even breathe at my first tournament."
Mendez-Sota kicked off her prep campaign with a season-low 81 at the Duneland Athletic Conference Invitational, and she added an 84 at last Saturday's Valparaiso Sectional.
Mendez-Sota arrived in the U.S. in August, and LaPorte coach Mark Wilson received word from host parent Scott Ford about a possible addition to the team.
"I hadn't seen her play, but Scott told me, 'All she talks about is golf,'" Wilson said. "I knew she was going to be good after we went to the driving range for her first practice. She's a great ball striker. It's her strength. You could tell that she's received instruction from her grandfather."
At this point, the biggest adjustment she has to deal with is the greens. Mendez-Sota said the greens in her home country are much flatter than the undulating varieties in the U.S.
"These are hilly and really fast. My putting has been bad," she said, "but I know putting more focus on my fairway shots will help. I'm able to relax."
This could be part of Mendez-Sota's comfortable nature.
"She loves to socialize and have fun," Wilson said. "Because of that personality, everyone wants to play with her.
"She's been a great addition to the team, whether or not she plays well."
Mendez-Sota's focus is on Saturday's regional at Beechwood, her new "home" course.
"I hope it will help playing here, since I do know the course," she said. "I just want to do my best for the team."