NEW YORK – Columbia sophomore Michelle Piyapattra returns to the links this week to compete in the 2012 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf East Regional from Thursday through Saturday at the Penn State Blue Course in State College, Pa.

There are 126 participants in the 2012 East Regional, including 24 teams and six individuals. Eight teams and two individuals advance from each of the three regionals to form the 126-player field at the NCAA Championships.

The 24 schools fielding teams at the East Regional include Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Augusta State, Campbell (Big South champion), Chattanooga (Southern Conference champion), Duke (ACC champion), Florida, Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley champion), Kent State (MAC champion), LIU (NEC champion), Maryland, Michigan State (Big Ten champion), Oklahoma State, Oral Roberts (Summit League champion), Northwestern, San Diego State, South Carolina, Texas, Texas A&M, Tulane, UCF, Wake Forest and Washington.

The individuals joining Piyapattra include Fanny Cnops (UNC-Greensboro), Charlotte Lorentzen (Georgia State), Kelly Shon (Princeton), Katie Mundy (FIU) and Laura Wearn (Furman).

Piyapattra and her fellow competitors will get a look at Penn State’s Blue Course on Wednesday with a practice round starting from the first hole at 7:30 a.m. Piyapattra is the second group with Mundy and Wearn, teeing off at 7:44 a.m.

For Thursday’s first round, Piyapattra, Mundy and Wearn will start from the 10th tee at 8:25 a.m. The trio begins Friday’s second round from No. 1 at 12:45 p.m.

Piyapattra will have an edge on many of her competitors this week as she has played Penn State’s Blue Course this season. She played through rainy conditions on the par 72, 6,229-yard course in the 2011 Nittany Lion Women’s Invitational from Sept. 30-Oct. 2. Piyapattra carded a 76-76—152 (+8) in the rain-shortened event and tied for 20th.

Piyapattra is the first Columbia Lion to compete at NCAA regionals since the 2007 squad qualified as a team. She has enjoyed a sensational sophomore season to date, earning Ivy League Player of the Year honors and first team All-Ivy League accolades on April 29 following the Ivy League Women’s Golf Championship at Seaview Bay Course (Galloway, N.J.). She has an Ivy League-best 74.52 round average and posted victories at the Harvard Invitational (Oct. 15-16) and the 6th Annual ROAR-EE Invitational (April 13-14).

She currently ranks 73rd in the nation in the Golfstat Cup rankings. Piyapattra has two rounds in the 60s this season. She carded a career-best stroke score of 2-under 68 in the final round of the Challenge at Onion Creek on Nov. 8. Piyapattra matched her career-low par score of 3-under 69 in the final round of the ROAR-EE Invitational on April 14.