Beauchamp, in her USGA uniform, on the 18th hole of the U.S. Open. Image: Sara Stathas.
Crouched in two-foot-tall fescue behind the 11th green, Christine (Richards) Beauchamp, a rules official at the 117th U.S. Open in Erin, Wisconsin, watched silent and still. The world’s best players were vying for a share of $12 million, the richest purse in golf history. A decision by her—that, say, a club had touched sand before a swing—could cost a player dearly.
Making the right call “starts with knowing ‘the Bible’,” Beauchamp whispered between threesomes, clutching her three-inch-thick United States Golf Association (USGA) rulebook. It contains verdicts on more than 1,500 scenarios, all of which the former economics major appears to have memorized.
Post college, Beauchamp worked as an auditor for Price Waterhouse in her native Puerto Rico, leaving to raise three children while her husband, Pedro Beauchamp ’73, attended medical school. She took up golf in 2002 and enrolled in her first USGA rules workshop in 2006, after an opponent in an amateur tournament wasn’t penalized for what Beauchamp maintains was an infraction. “I wasn’t going to get burned again,” she says. She started volunteering as an official at local tournaments and now adjudicates some 30 events a year.
Qualifying to officiate at major championships requires scoring at least a 92 on a hair-splitting, 100-question USGA exam. Beauchamp, a “proud stickler,” has scored a 95 or higher every year since 2009. She has worked, by invitation, at the British Open (2013), the U.S. Women’s Open (this year and last), and International Golf Federation tournaments in Turkey, Japan, and Argentina. Like many rules officials, she volunteers her time.
It was quiet that muggy afternoon on the 11th, aside from when Beauchamp had to radio fellow officials to put a trio of golfers “on the clock” for slow play (and in jeopardy of a one-stoke penalty). During the lulls, it was impossible to stump her.
What’s rule 17–4?
“Ball resting against flagstick.” At a local championship in 2016, she explained, a player picked up his ball that was wedged between the flagstick and the cup, thinking he had scored a hole-in-one (and won a convertible). Incorrect. The matter was brought to the Puerto Rico Golf Association rules committee, which included Beauchamp. The members ruled that his ball wasn’t “holed”—”meaning entirely below the hole’s lip”—and he was disqualified for not finishing.
Beauchamp is known for declaring rules violations during family board games. What she loves about golf, she says, is “there’s always an elegant solution.”