Sports | Golf

Senior Profile: Michelle Piyapattra, CC

  • Pattra Familias | Michelle Piyapattra has headlined the Lions’ women’s golf program in her four years at Columbia, winning distinction as Ivy League Player of the Year in 2012 and earning three first-team All-Ivy nods.

This senior profile is part of Spectator’s 2014 commencement special issue. Check out the 17 other senior profiles, the class day ceremony recaps, and a timeline of the biggest events of the last four years.

Michelle Piyapattra conquered every course she encountered in her four years at Columbia, whether it was part of the Core or a grassy links.

Piyapattra has been a standout for the women’s golf team throughout her collegiate career. One of the winners of this year’s Connie S. Maniatty Award, which recognizes the best male and female athletes of Columbia’s senior class, she has also received first-team All-Ivy honors in three of her four seasons.

Her illustrious career began when, as a first-year, she became just the second golfer in school history to take medalist honors at the Ivy League Championships, where she won the event by 10 strokes. But the Corona, California, native was not satisfied.

“My freshman year I won the Ivy Championship, but I really wanted to get Player of the Year, an award for being the best over the whole season in the entire Ivy League,” Piyapattra said.

A year later, she accomplished that goal, earning recognition as the Ivy League Player of the Year as a sophomore and qualifying for NCAA Regionals, becoming the first member of the women’s golf team to qualify since 2007.

To be named Player of the Year wasn’t Piyapattra’s only goal. At the Varsity C Celebration during her first year, she watched Clark Granum, SEAS ’11, of the men’s golf team, win the Maniatty Award.

“I thought that was so awesome, and I thought it would be such an honor just to be nominated for that award my senior year,” she said. “And I won it, which was such an amazing feeling.”

Piyapattra credits much of her growth as a golfer to Columbia. The excitement of going to school in New York drew her across the country, and she soon realized the new environment would affect her approach to golf.

“Being at Columbia changed the way I played and practiced and thought about golf,” she said. “I came mainly for the academics, and it was a fun idea to be able to go to school in New York. Still, it was new to me to not be able to practice all year, being that I’m from California. But it was nice to have that break right when we got to midterms so we had time to focus on school.”

While snowstorms have kept Piyapattra off the course in the winter, a storm during her junior season brought about one of her favorite memories as a Lion.

“Last year we were at a tournament and the hurricane hit. We were stuck in North Carolina because no flights were coming in,” Piyapattra said. “So we went bowling, watched ‘Pitch Perfect,’ and had a good time with just the team. We ended up driving 16 hours back to New York. It was kind of crazy but fun.”

She credits moments like this for bringing together the women’s golf team. That team closed out its 2013-14 season by winning three consecutive tournaments on its way to a third-place finish at the Ivy League Championships, the team’s highest finish in six years.

Piyapattra also attributes the team’s growing success—as well as her own—to the mentorship of her coach, Kari Williams.

“Sophomore year, we had Regionals and only I had made it, and she would take me to practice every morning, or whenever I needed it, even though it was out of her way,” Piyapattra said. “She’s very committed to the program and to helping all of us get better.” 

Williams played professionally after an impressive collegiate career, and Piyapattra intends to do the same. Piyapattra played in and won her first amateur event at the Morningstar Championship Golf Club on the Canadian Women’s Tour on May 14. Her victory earned her exemption into the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, and she will compete in the Open Championship in London, Ontario, from Aug. 21 to 24.

“I’ll be playing a lot of golf over the summer and turning professional in the fall,” she said.

It looks like Piyapattra is about to accomplish yet another one of her goals.

This senior profile is part of Spectator’s 2014 commencement special issue. Check out the 17 other senior profiles, the class day ceremony recaps, and a timeline of the biggest events of the last four years.

sports@columbiaspectator.com@CUSpecSports

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