Member of the AWSA Board of Directors in 1952
The present sound financial position of organized water skiing in the United States is due in large measure to the volunteer efforts of Leland G. Sutherland, a former partner in the New York accounting firm of Price Waterhouse, who served as treasurer of the American Water Ski Association during its critical growth years.
Sutherland's first exposure to water skiing came in 1948 when he was already 50 years old, and he wasted no time in leading his family wholeheartedly into the sport. His two sons, Donald and Robert learned to water ski in summer camp that year, and on a vacation trip a few weeks later, the rest of the Sutherland family -- Lee, his wife and their daughter Dorothy -- got up on skis at ski schools they chanced upon in Michigan and Illinois. The Sutherlands also with witnessed the National Water Ski Championships that summer at Martin Lagoon in Maryland. Soon to follow was the purchase of a summer cottage on Raccoon Island in Lake Hopatcong, not far from their home in Short hills, N.J., a 19 foot Chris Craft Boat, Bruce Parker water skis, and other accessories with which to pursue their new hobby.
The Sutherland's place in the Water Ski Hall of Fame came as a result of his work as an official rather than his accomplishments as a participant is underscored by what he describes as the highlight of his competitive career.
"I was skiing in senior men tricks in a New Hampshire tournament in the early 1950's," he recalls. Jack Andresen was a sure winner of the event because he knew so many ore tricks than the rest of us, but I had a chance for second. When it came my turn, I did a front to back, a back to front, a 30, and then I tried a reverse 360 and fell. Bill Goodhue came out and made the same tricks, then fell on the reverse just as I had. That left us in a tie for second. We drew lots to see who would ski first in the runoff and Goodhue got to go out. He made the same tricks, then fell again on this try for a reverse 360. I followed with a front to back, a back to front, a 30 then suddenly I heard them shouting the shore, "Ride out!" "Ride Out" So I got credit for riding out the course and finished second.
However mediocre his tournament performances might have been, Sutherland's persistent efforts to insure fiscal stability for organized water skiing made him a real champion. He became a member of the AWSA Board of Directors in 1952, serving as treasurer in 1954-55, as secretary-treasurer in 1958-59 and 1959-60, and as president in 1960-61.
His major contribution to the sport came during the period from 1965 through 1974 when he again took over the duties as treasurer. He spent countless hour at AWSA Headquarters in Winter Haven, Fla., helping to develop the association's accounting procedures, making recommendations in financial matters and steering the ASWA through the intricacies of the Internal Revenue Service to obtain and maintain its income tax exemption.
These where he heaviest growth year in the history of the association, and Sutherland's wise advice and counsel helped to develop a firm financial foundation for years to come.
In its vote of appreciation, the AWSA Board of Directors made Sutherland a Vice President for Life, only the fourth such person ever accorded the honor. (The other three, the late Dan Hains, Dick Pope, Sr., and Chuck Sligh were among the first inductees in the Water Ski Hall of Fame in 1982).
Sutherland was 84 at the time of his Hall of Fame induction in 1983. He had given up his regular summertime regimen of water skiing two years earlier on the advice of his doctor after some stress tests during a routine checkup.
"I thought I had done pretty well," Sutherland said. And I might have gotten away with it anyway, but my boat driver got wind of the test results." His favorite and long-time boat driver was his devoted wife Dorothy.