Phil Mickelson regrets recent comments

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Phil Mickelson regrets recent comments

From Comcast SportsNetSAN DIEGO (AP) -- Phil Mickelson is talking more about how much he pays in taxes than how many fairways he hits off the tee.Mickelson, regarded as the "People's Choice" for his connection with fans, put his popularity on the line with polarizing comments about how much he has to pay in state and federal taxes. The four-time major champion said it might lead to "drastic changes," such as moving from his native California, and that it already caused him to pull out of the San Diego Padres' new ownership group.His only regret was not keeping his opinion to himself."Finances and taxes are a personal matter, and I should not have made my opinions on them public," Mickelson said in a statement released Monday night. "I apologize to those I have upset or insulted, and assure you I intend not to let it happen again."Mickelson first made a cryptic reference to "what's gone on the last few months politically" during a conference call two weeks ago for the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where he won last year for his 40th career PGA Tour title. After his final round Sunday at the Humana Challenge, he was asked what he meant."There are going to be some drastic changes for me because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state, and it doesn't work for me right now," he said. "So I'm going to have to make some changes."Mickelson said the new federal tax rate, and California voting for Proposition 30 to increase taxes on the earnings over 250,000, contributed to total taxes that tap into more than 60 percent of his income.Golf Digest magazine, in its annual survey of top earners in the sports, said Mickelson made just over 45 million last year on and off the golf course.The response to Mickelson's opinions on taxes ranged from mocking a guy who has become a multimillionaire by playing golf to support for having such a high tax rate and not being afraid to speak his mind.A majority of PGA Tour players live in Florida and others in Texas, two states that have no state income tax. Tiger Woods grew up in Southern California and played two years at Stanford. He was a California kid when he won an unprecedented three straight U.S. Amateur titles, but when he made his professional debut in Milwaukee a week later, he was listed as being from Orlando, Fla."I moved out of here back in 96 for that reason," Woods said Tuesday."I enjoy Florida, but also I understand what he was -- I think -- trying to say," Woods said of the Mickelson comments. "I think he'll probably explain it better and in a little more detail."Mickelson deflected questions at the Humana Challenge by saying he would prefer to elaborate at his news conference at Torrey Pines.That couldn't wait."I know I have my usual pre-tournament press conference scheduled this week but I felt I needed to address the comments I made following the Humana Challenge now," Mickelson said in his statement. "I absolutely love what I do. I love and appreciate the game of golf and the people who surround it. I'm as motivated as I've ever been to work on my game, to compete and to win championships."Right now, I'm like many Americans who are trying to understand the new tax laws. I've been learning a lot over the last few months and talking with people who are trying to help me make intelligent and informed decisions. I certainly don't have a definitive plan at this time, but like everyone else I want to make decisions that are best for my future and my family."Mickelson's news conference Wednesday will come after his pro-am round in the Farmers Insurance Open, a tournament he first won 20 years ago."He definitely showed a lack of sympathy for the plight of a lot of people, unemployed and all that sort of stuff," Geoff Ogilvy said. "But everything is relative. He's verbalized when he's thinking, and you shouldn't get in trouble for verbalizing what you're thinking."Texas Gov. Rick Perry even weighed in with this tweet: "Hey Phil....Texas is home to liberty and low taxes...we would love to have you as well!!"Mickelson is among the most famous athletes to come out of San Diego. He went to school at Arizona State and lived in Scottsdale, Ariz., for the first decade of his career until moving back home to Rancho Santa Fe.He was part of the group that bought the Padres, saying that it would be a "significant investment" for him but that he saw it as a great opportunity to get involved in his hometown. Asked if the tax changes were why he withdrew, Mickelson said, "Absolutely."Mickelson has earned just under 70 million in PGA Tour earnings for his career, which doesn't include corporate endorsements (Callaway, Barclays, Rolex) or his golf course design company, which is thriving in China.In November, California voters approved Proposition 30, the first statewide tax increase since 2004. It raises the rate on earnings over 250,000 for seven years."If you add up all the federal and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and the state, my tax rate is 62, 63 percent," Mickelson had said. "So I've got to make some decisions on what I'm going to do."The reaction to Mickelson's comments from the California legislature split along party lines, with Republicans saying they expect more high-earners to follow and Democrats saying multimillionaires can afford to pay more."You know, it's sad," said Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare. "And I think it'll be the first of many."Democrats said there is no evidence in the U.S. or California of mass departures in the wake of higher taxes on the wealthy. State Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, called Mickelson "the exception rather than the rule."This is not the first time Mickelson's opinions have brought him attention. Ten years ago, he came to Torrey Pines and apologized for Woods for saying in magazine article that the world's No. 1 player was using inferior equipment.These comments on paying taxes were sure to resonate with far more people.Ogilvy recently moved from San Diego County to Scottsdale, though his reason was more about golf than taxes. He bought a home in Del Mar and lived with his wife and three kids for about four years, knowing there were other states he could live with lower tax rates."It's a little bit of one negative to a lot of positives," Ogilvy said. "If the tax rate in California was the same as it was in Texas, half the tour would live here. The lifestyle is impressive. The climate is impressive. But even the ones who grow up here move away."

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Jack Aho

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Jack Aho

Jack Aho is the reigning state champion in Class 2A and recently shattered a course record at Warren High School. 

But beyond posting some of the area's fastest times, cross country is also a family affair for Aho.

See why he was named this week's Wintrust Athlete of the Week in the video above.

Football takes a back seat as Griffins honor PFC Aaron Toppen on Salute to Troops night

Football takes a back seat as Griffins honor PFC Aaron Toppen on Salute to Troops night

“Football is life. Until it’s not.”

That message Lincoln-Way East head coach Rob Zvonar relayed to his team in the week leading up to the Griffins’ Week 5 tilt against Thornton was an important one. For the 115 student-athletes who make up a team with legitimate state-title aspirations, high school football can feel like a life-and-death situation. Until it’s not.

Private First Class Aaron Toppen, a 2013 Lincoln-Way East graduate, was 19 when he was killed in Afghanistan two years ago. And on that June 9, 2014, a country lost a hero, a family lost a son, a brother and an uncle, and a community lost a friend who had walked through the halls of Lincoln-Way East High School and drove his famous pick-up truck through town just a year earlier.

So when the Griffins held their annual Salute the Troops night last Friday night, before blowing out the Wildcats 42-6, Aaron’s surviving family was an easy choice to join the team as honorary captains. Aaron’s mother, two sisters, uncle, grandmother and niece were recognized before the game, all in loving memory of a fellow Griffin graduate who gave the ultimate sacrifice to his country.

“Aaron’s passing was a big deal to our community,” athletic director Mark Vander Kooi said. “And we wanted to embrace his family and let them know that we cared about them, loved them and appreciated the sacrifice they made.”

When Lincoln-Way East principal Dr. Sharon Michalak contacted Aaron’s sister, Amy, about honoring her brother last week’s football game, the family jumped at the opportunity. Aaron and his family had been honored at a game in 2014, just months after Aaron’s death. And with the Griffins hosting “Salute to Troops” night, and that coinciding with the annual 5k run held in Aaron’s name the following day, the family accepted the invitation with open arms.

“It’s just amazing. The support never stops, and to hear that they want to keep Aaron’s name alive and honor him, it just really makes us feel wonderful,” Aaron’s mother, Pam, said. “It’s a way we’re getting through it, is through the support of everybody.

Many of the Griffins know the Toppen family – Amy and Amanda are also graduates – but for those unfamiliar with Aaron’s story – like the student-athletes who transferred from North – head coach Rob Zvonar made it a point to relay that message during practice week. Before the team dressed Friday night, all 115 players watched a pair of video tributes to Toppen in one of the school’s classrooms.

“It’s awesome playing in his honor,” senior Sam Diehl said. “We understand football’s just a game and that (Aaron) made the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life for our country, that we have more to give than just football to our community, that there are people out there we need to be more thankful of.”

Once the pregame festivities ended the Griffins put on a worthy performance. They scored touchdowns on their first six drives of the game into the third quarter. Jake Arthur threw three more touchdown passes, wide receiver Nick Zelenika topped 100 yards and the Griffins’ offense averaged better than 4.5 yards per carry.

Devin O’Rourke tallied five tackles for loss and two more sacks – he has five in the last two weeks – and the Griffins defense limited the Wildcats to only a late touchdown in the final minute. The Griffins first team defense has allowed zero points in its last six quarters and appears to be putting its early-season struggles behind them.

But the night belonged to the Toppen family and Aaron’s legacy. The night coincided with homecoming weekend, and it brought back more than a handful of Aaron’s old classmates. One of them, current Illinois offensive lineman Nick Allegretti, spoke highly of Aaron and the impact he left on the school and community.

“I always enjoyed talking in class sitting with him,” he said. “Any person that’s going to go out and fight for our country and fight for our freedom, I have unlimited respect for. So obviously it’s a sad thing to remember, but I think it’s awesome seeing the support we have out here, from the community to the school to the administration.”

The following day each member of the Griffins and the coaching staff traveled to Mokena to participate in the third annual Our Fallen Hero 5k run in Aaron’s memory. Zvonar and the seniors joked about the aches and pains they’d feel running the 3.1 miles less than 12 hours after a football game, but they also understood the importance of showing up, honoring a fellow Griffin and raising money for the Pat Tillman Foundation.

“We’re able to run if we have to, walk if we have to, do what we have to to get it done,” running back Nigel Muhammad said. “Because it’s not about us.”

Added the 285-pound Diehl: “We’re more than happy to run the 3.1 miles. Even us offensive linemen don’t mind.”

More than 600 people were expected to show up for the fundraiser run, which had raised nearly $50,000 in its first two years.

“Aaron would probably say, ‘Mom I don’t like attention, what’s going on here?’ Because he was never that type,” Pam said. “But such a tragedy has brought together a community, and like Amanda said we’re blessed to be a part of this community…We just love seeing everybody.”

Football is life. Until it’s not.

It would have been enough for Zvonar and the coaching staff to speak about who Aaron Toppen was, and the impact he left on a school, a community and a country. The Toppen family could have simply been honored at halftime. Attending the 5k could have been optional for the team to attend.

Instead, football took a back seat for a night in Frankfort. The Toppens were gracious enough to be placed front-and-center to remember a young man who gave his life to protect the freedoms of each one of the thousands in attendance that evening.

“You think back to Aaron Toppen, who a few years ago was walking the hallways of this school and in the same classroom as these guys, and going to the same homecoming dance, and this was just a little bit ago,” Zvonar said. “A young man that’s barely older than these guys and then he goes off and serves his country and fights for the rights for all of us, and pays the ultimate sacrifice. You certainly don’t let that go by unnoticed.

“You want to really make sure that that’s pointed out, that freedom doesn’t come free. And these young men have an opportunity to come out and play this great game tonight. And all these things they’re allowed to do because of the bravery of young men like Aaron Toppen. One of those situations where I know as long as Coach Vander Kooi and myself are here we’ll do everything we can to stop and talk about him.”