PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — In the end, Phil Mickelson settled on one word to describe his Players Championship. “Interesting,” he said. “It’s been an interesting week.” He meant his play on the course, which he said has been perplexing. “I don’t know what to say,” he said about his game after twin 74s led to a missed cut.
But what also made the week interesting was dealing with his connection to the ringleader of the college admissions scandal that swept the U.S. last week. Mickelson acknowledged that he and his wife Amy had hired Rick Singer’s college prep program to help their children navigate the process. But after Thursday’s round, Mickelson said everything in the process had been above board and denied any wrongdoing.
“Our kids are — schools are like, fighting to get them,” he said. “And I say that as a proud dad, but their grades and their outside activities and their worldly views on things have colleges recruiting them, so we weren’t even aware, really.
“We’ve been using his company for three years, know, tutors and we’ve looked at three dozen colleges based on his recommendations, so his company has helped us through this whole process, because it’s been confusing.”
Friday, Mickelson took a more defensive stance, pushing back against what he described as criticism of his children. He reiterated that they’d been involved in nothing untoward.
“I’m used to taking hits, but it hurts when you have your kids being questioned over doing nothing but working hard and studying hard, but we’re going to be okay,” he said.
Mickelson’s eldest child, Amanda, is a sophomore at Brown University, while his younger two are a sophomore and junior in high school. Mickelson explained Thursday that all three have used Singer’s program, including making recommended college visits the last couple weeks.
“We’re not a part of this, so…and I mean thousands, most every family that has used his company are not a part of this, and I guess that’s why we’re so surprised,” he said. “I’m learning about it just as you are, from what I read.”
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors charged 50 people in what they called the “largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.” According to the New York Times, scores of parents paid millions in bribes to help their children get into schools through various avenues, including manipulating test scores, paying to secure admission or faking athletic abilities.
William “Rick” Singer is at the forefront of those charged. The 59-year-old’s college prep business, the Edge College and Career Network, is at the center of the scheme. He has been working with prosecutors since September, helping them implicate high-profile schools, parents, coaches and more.