OKOL LAKE PARK INTERVIEW WITH VIKTOR IVANOV AND GEORGI VLAHOV
Viktor Ivanov and Georgi Vlahov are two proud Bulgarians and key members of the Greenkeeping team at OKOL Lake Park. In an exclusive interview, Victor and Georgi talk about the resort and the overall golf course development.
Featuring an 18 hole championship golf course managed by IMG and a 5 star Pullman hotel, OKOL Lake Park will set new standards for golf in Bulgaria and the Balkan region when it opens this year.
How do you reflect on the progress and development of the golf course so far?
Victor: Being in the last stage of project development and construction, we are now starting to see the results of the last year's hard work and the positive perspective for the following few months. It has been, without a doubt, a long and exciting journey starting from the groundbreaking ceremony in August 2020 to the expected opening this year. Our main focus at the start of this year was to find and train the team, set all of the procedures and schedules and purchase the required equipment so that we could start the spring at full speed.
Georgi: Yes, we have dedicated much of the winter period to planning and preparing. As a result of this, we are now benefiting from that time well spent and have hit the ground running.
How do you plan to take advantage of IMG’s international experience to continue developing your career in golf?
Victor: We have both spent a number of years abroad, mainly in USA and UK. It has been a dream of ours to return home. We are proud of the knowledge and experience we have gained, but the opportunity of being lead IMG greenkeepers is the actual reason for our professional development during the past year. It keeps us motivated and determined to do the job at the highest possible level.
Georgi: IMG is giving us just the right balance between freedom in our day-to-day routine and structured procedures. IMG Agronomist, Sylvain Duval, is of great support to us. He has helped us clear every single step of the long grassing process and ensured we have developed a strong work-based culture within the team.
OKOL is striving for a new level of golfing excellence in Bulgaria. How will this be achieved?
Victor: Despite all the challenging circumstances we are doing extremely well. We managed to complete most of the major works last autumn and have to finalise a few holes this spring along with some fine-tuning. Nevertheless, the hard work has not stopped and we continue our journey as strong as ever.
Georgi: Our colleagues are also progressing well. The 5-star Pullman hotel is set to open in December along with the infrastructure and the first custom houses. OKOL is and will become a truly amazing place – with its stunning views of the Iskar Lake and Rila Mountains, the bespoke golf and hotel facilities, it will deliver a healthy, active, golf-integrated lifestyle.
What have been some of the biggest challenges so far and how did you overcome them?
Victor: Although we always like to think of challenges as opportunities, the last few years have not been easy. The Covid pandemic and the conflicts in Europe brought numerous adverse changes. Inflation and disrupted supply chain seem to be manageable but for sure, finding and recruiting motivated team members has been one of the more difficult elements. However now that the sun is shining and the grass is growing everything becomes a little easier we are excited about what lies ahead!