Golfer Phil Mickelson said he paid the ringleader of a college admissions bribery scheme for college preparation for his children but nothing more.
Speaking Thursday after the opening round of The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, Fla., Mickelson said he and his wife, Amy, hired William Singer's for-profit tutoring company. But, he added, he never made a financial donation to Singer's nonprofit group, Key World Foundation, in expectation of Singer's help of getting his children into a college they weren't qualified to attend.
Singer admitted to using the foundation to illegally funnel bribes received from parents.
"We, along with thousands of other families, hired he and his company to help guide us through the college application process," Mickelson told reporters. "We're as shocked as everyone the last few days."
The Mickelsons have three children. Their 19-year-old daughter, Amanda, attends Brown University. Their younger daughter and son are in high school.
On Tuesday, Singer pleaded guilty to numerous charges that had to do with his work in helping the children of well-to-do parents gain admission to top universities either by arranging to fix their scores on tests such as the SAT, or by building a profile of the students as recruited athletes and connecting them with coaches. Members of athletic staffs at several Division I universities, recruited by Singer, have been indicted in connection with the case.
Singer published a testimonial letter from the Mickelsons on his company's website, which the golfer said his wife wrote as a thank you for assistance in the college-prep efforts for the children.
"We're not a part of this," Mickelson said of the scheme. "Most every family that hired his company was not a part of it. I think that's why we're all so surprised."
He said his children have both the academic and athletic prowess to be considered by leading colleges on their own.
Amanda Mickelson was the captain of the lacrosse and tennis teams at Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad, Calif. She also was on the basketball team.
"Our kids, schools are like fighting to get them," Mickelson said. "I say that as a proud dad. Their grades and outside activities and worldly beliefs are things that have colleges recruiting them. [Singer and his company] helped us through the whole process because it can be confusing."
--Field Level Media